It’s time for the first news roundup of the new year! There have been quite a few interesting stories recently, including the following:
1. The New York Times reports that cell phones are widespread in prison. One Georgia inmate reports that “almost everybody has a phone,” usually a smartphone. In addition to playing FarmVille on Facebook — seriously — inmates also use them to communicate with family and friends on the outside, or even in other prisons. The phones may be brought in by guards or shot over prison walls. I wonder if removing electric power outlets from most inmate-accessible areas would make a difference.
2. A News and Observer story indicates that Durham is planning a ballistics lab. The story contains mixed messages about the relationship of that decision to the situation at the SBI lab. In any case, it should lighten the SBI’s workload: Apparently, the Durham Police Department is “only one of about 500 law-enforcement agencies in the state, but it submits about one-third of all the firearms analyzed by [the] SBI.” Durham will be one of only a handful of law enforcement agencies in the state with its own ballistics lab.
3. The Charlotte Observer has this interesting piece about a Wesley Chapel physician with a machine gun that he fires regularly at his home range. His neighbors don’t like it, and there’s some controversy about whether he’s legally entitled to have a machine gun under G.S. 14-409, which generally prohibits the possession of such weapons.
4. Judge Cressie Thigpen won’t be leaving the court of appeals, even though he narrowly lost to Judge Doug McCullough in the recent election. Governor Perdue has re-appointed him to fill the seat being vacated by Judge Barbara Jackson, who is moving to the state supreme court.
5. The indigent defense education group at the School of Government has unveiled a promising new series of online CLE “lunchinars.” As explained in more detail here, each session is provides 1.25 hours of free CLE, and they’re “open to public defenders and private assigned counsel, prosecutors [and] judges.” The first one will take place January 21. It will feature the School’s own Jamie Markham and Alyson Grine, talking about felony sentencing.
6. A couple of other stories from around the web: a Texas man was exonerated after serving 30 years for a rape he didn’t commit; the Supreme Court of California Supreme ruled that cell phones may be searched routinely incident to arrest; and new recommendations about the highway patrol may soon be forthcoming.