It was an absolutely fascinating news week. Among the noteworthy stories:
1. In Graham v. Florida, discussed here, the United States Supreme Court held that it is cruel and unusual punishment to sentence a juvenile to life without parole for a non-homicide offense. Several recent cases ask whether Graham marks the outer limit of the Eighth Amendment or is just a step on a longer road. The Missouri Supreme Court is considering whether mandatory LWOP for juvenile murderers is constitutional, while a similar issue is up for review in Wisconsin. While Graham had little direct impact in North Carolina, any expansion of the ruling would likely have a major effect here.
2. On the technology and surveillance front, the New York Times reports that the FBI wants new wiretapping rules because “some telecommunications companies in recent years have begun new services and made system upgrades that caused technical problems for surveillance.” Meanwhile, the Detroit Free Press has a story about police officers who secretly taped two brothers at their parents’ grave, then charged one of the brothers with murdering the parents. Prosecutors want to use the tape to show the defendant’s lack of emotion regarding his parents’ death, while the defendant argues that the recording was improper electronic eavesdropping. (Hat tip: Crime and Consequences.) In the private sector, McDonald’s is apparently rolling out a new “DNA spray” that tags criminals when employees trigger a silent alarm.
3. California’s considering legalizing marijuana. A former surgeon general supports the idea, as do several law professors. The federal Attorney General, though, has declared that the federal government will continue enforcing the federal drug laws in California no matter what the state decides to do. The interesting interplay of federalism and federal supremacy may never come to pass, though: recent polls suggest that California voters may reject the legalization referendum.
4. Sad and serious news: the FBI reports that 48 law-enforcement officers were killed in the line of duty last year.
5. Light and frivolous news: in Sweden, a laptop thief backed up the victim’s data an mailed it to him. In Florida, a serial iPhone thief was identified and apprehended based on his distinctive facial tattoo, reading “I’m me.” In Connecticut, a law firm has opened a drive-through window.
6. Finally, anyone who has been to law school, is thinking of going to law school, or is close to a lawyer may get a kick out of this funny video. Dark, but funny.