There’s been way more than the usual amount of interesting criminal law news this week, so let’s dive right in:
- The General Assembly has been busy. The Senate passed a bill that would, among other things, repeal the Racial Justice Act; it now moves to the House. Meanwhile, the House passed a bill that the News and Observer describes as follows: “Currently, those convicted of DWI can have restrictions on their license for one year; during that period, a blood-alcohol content of 0.04 is allowed, instead of the 0.08 for everyone else. This bill would lower that amount to 0.00, and in most cases would be in effect for three years.” It now moves to the Senate.
- Gun rights and gun control. I participated in an interesting panel on this subject this week at Duke Law. My remarks addressed some of the same topics I covered in the webinar that I did a couple of weeks ago. The recorded webinar is now available on the School of Government web page, here. It’s free to view. In other gun-related news, the City Council of Nelson, Georgia, has passed an ordinance requiring the head of each household to have a gun and ammunition, subject to limited exceptions. The USA Today has the story here.
- What punishment fits the crime? That’s the question posed by two very interesting, very sad cases covered by Sentencing Law & Policy this week. First, an 86-year-old man shot his 81-year-old wife in the head. He had known her since age 15, and had been her sole caregiver since she was diagnosed with MS in 1969. Her condition deteriorated over the years, and he had health issues as well. When she contracted gangrene and faced the possibility of having her foot amputated and moving into a nursing home, she asked him to kill her, and he did. Think about what sentence you would impose, then read this post to find out what the judge decided. Second, consider this post about a man in Saudi Arabia who, at age 14, stabbed a friend in the spine during a fight, paralyzing him. A court has ordered that the defendant, in turn, be surgically paralyzed (unless his family can come up with $270,000 in blood money for the victim’s family). The defendant has already been in prison for ten years. This post and the comments are both worth reading, particularly the discussion about whether such a punishment is more or less severe than a life sentence of imprisonment.
- Technology tidbits. The DEA isn’t happy with Apple’s iMessage service, which apparently uses encryption so secure that the content of messages can’t be obtained, even with a wiretap order. (Apple Insider.) And over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr discusses a California case in which a defendant was charged with using a cell phone while driving based on looking at the device’s map function. The court concluded that the driver was, indeed, using the phone within the meaning of the statute, not merely using a device that includes a potential phone function. Orin’s skeptical.
- Fatal child abuse. Finally, I would love to hear informed readers’ thoughts about this BBC News story, entitled America’s Child Death Shame, which can pretty much be summed up in the following chart. Is this data correct? If so, what is the explanation?