Nationally, the biggest piece of criminal law news this week was that Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a bill that repeals the death penalty in Illinois. He also commuted the sentences of the fifteen men on death row to life in prison. (All had been sentenced to death since 2000, when then-Governor George Ryan, as he left office, commuted the sentences of the 167 men who were on death row at that time.) The New York Times has the story here.
In other news:
1.Additional federal charges have been filed against Jared Loughner in connection with the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords. According to the New York Times, the latest indictment includes “charges involving victims who were not federal officials but merely attending a ‘federally provided activity,” namely, the “Congress on Your Corner” event Giffords was holding at the time of the shooting. Both the Times and other commentators question the sufficiency of the federal nexus for the additional victims, and wonder whether the government is overreaching, or at least injecting a difficult legal issue into an otherwise slam-dunk case.
2. The Wall Street Journal has this interesting article, which begins: “A growing number of states are renouncing some of the long prison sentences that have been a hallmark of the war on drugs and instead focusing on treatment, which once-skeptical lawmakers now say is proven to be less expensive and more effective.” (Hat tip: Sentencing Law and Policy.) I was especially interested in a graphic attached to the article, which shows that arrests for drug possession have increased dramatically over the past 20 years, while arrests for drug distribution have remained flat. I’d be interested in North Carolina data on that point if anyone out there has it handy.
3. The front page of the News and Observer today contains this story about a ruling by Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson. The story begins, “Durham prosecutors and the State Bureau of Investigation violated the . . . constitution and state law by withholding key evidence from Derrick Allen in the 1998 sexual assault and death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter.” It appears that Judge Hudson not only vacated Allen’s conviction — which was the result of an Alford plea — but ordered that charges be dismissed altogether because “[i]t is no longer possible for Mr. Allen to ever receive a fair trial.” The state plans to appeal.
4. The General Assembly keeps churning along. It has passed H3, which, if signed by the Governor, will add a good faith exception to the statutory exclusionary rule in G.S. 15A-974. If and when it becomes law, we plan to have an analysis here on the blog. Lots of other legislation of interest is pending, quite a bit of which seems to have to do with guns: S141 would expand certain prosecutors’ ability to carry firearms, H184 would do the same for elected officials, and H271 would do likewise for probation and parole officers; H241 would purport to exempt from the federal firearms laws certain guns manufactured in North Carolina; and H63 would bar businesses from prohibiting guns locked out of sight in a vehicle.
5. Finally, the usual assemblage of odd little stories from around the web. The headline of this CNN story says it all: Intruder Calls 911, Afraid Homeowner May Have a Gun. This Gizmodo piece compares the merits of having an alligator, or ten black bears, guard your marijuana operation. (Hint: neither one seems to work very well.) And this story in the Baltimore Sun will be a sad one for fans of the amazing HBO series The Wire. Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, the actress who played, um, Snoop in the series, has been arrested in a Baltimore drug crackdown. Series creator David Simon offered this statement.