News Roundup

A stunning and tragic mass shooting in New Zealand late last week is one of the biggest international criminal law news stories in recent memory.  Last Friday, an Australian man motivated by racism killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch.  In a disturbing use of modern technology, the attack was streamed live to Facebook from a camera the gunman wore on a helmet.  News reports say that the man was active on right-wing white nationalist internet forums, and that he posted a lengthy manifesto to one such forum just before the attack.  In that document, he reportedly said that in addition to stoking racial discord, one of his goals was to further divide Americans on the controversial issue of gun laws.  Keep reading for more news.

New Zealand to Ban Assault Weapons.  As has been the case in the majority of recent mass shootings in the United States, the gunman in New Zealand used a military-style assault rifle during his attack.  Just six days after the attack, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country will ban all military-style semiautomatic weapons, all high capacity magazines, and all parts that can be used to modify a weapon into a style covered by the ban.  It appears that the ban will be passed into law because it has broad support in the country’s parliament.

Bump Stocks.  Nearly a year and a half has passed since the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, where 58 people were killed and more than 500 were injured at a concert in Las Vegas.  On March 26, the Trump administration’s ban on bump stocks, devices used in that shooting and which cause semiautomatic weapons to operate as if they were fully automatic, will go into effect.  After that date, the sale of the devices will be prohibited and within 90 days people who still possess them must destroy them or turn them over to the ATF.  A WFMY News report from late last year has information about what to do with bump stocks in North Carolina.

Seeking Conviction.  Eleven news organizations across North Carolina recently published a four-part collaborative investigative report entitled “Seeking Conviction” that examines the issue of sexual assault prosecution and convictions in the state.  According to the report, fewer than one in four defendants charged with a sexual assault offense in North Carolina are convicted of the crime or a related reduced charge.  A link to all of the reports in the series is here.

Ainsworth.  Earlier this year the News Roundup noted that Raleigh Police Officer Charles Ainsworth had been shot while conducting a traffic stop and was in serious condition at Wake Med.  Earlier this week, North Carolina firefighters and police officers faced off in a charity hockey game called the “Battle of the Badges” to raise funds for Ainsworth’s medical expenses.  Ainsworth is still recovering in the hospital though his wife said at the game that he was doing well considering his injuries.

Mass Incarceration CLE.  Next Friday, North Carolina Advocates for Justice is holding a seminar entitled “Tackling the Crisis of Racialized Mass Incarceration.”  Attendees will get 5.75 hours of CLE and the seminar will be webcast live for anyone who wants to attend but can’t make it to Raleigh.  More information is available here.

Guilford Judge Suspended.  The Greensboro News & Record reports that Guilford County District Court Judge Mark Cummings has been temporarily suspended from the bench by Chief Justice Cheri Beasley.  No details regarding the suspension are provided in the report, though it does say that Cummings’ access to the Guilford Courthouse has been restricted.

Walk on By.  It may not be a sin, but at least one person suspected that it might be wrong even as their love kept coming on strong, see James Carr, The Dark End of the Street, on You Got my Mind Messed Up (Goldwax, 1967), so they asked the State Bar about it.  What is “it” you ask?  A prosecutor and a defense attorney carrying on a sexual relationship with each other while acting as opposing counsel in criminal cases without disclosing that fact to defendants and to the district attorney’s office.  Clarifying in Proposed 2019 Formal Ethics Opinion 3 that such relationships must be disclosed and consented to, the State Bar Ethics Committee cast light into the shadows where attorneys don’t belong, living in darkness to hide their wrong.