As the L.A. Times reports, there was another school shooting in the United States this week. Early on Thursday morning just as classes were beginning, a student at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, opened fire with a handgun while standing in the school’s quad. Two students were killed and three others were wounded. The gunman, apparently a 16-year-old boy whose birthday was Thursday, shot himself but survived and was being treated at a hospital at the time of writing. Keep reading for more news.
The major national criminal law news story of the week comes from Oklahoma where on Monday more than 400 inmates had their sentences commuted and were released from prison. It was the largest mass commutation in U.S. history. As USA Today explains, Oklahoma made changes to its criminal law in 2016 that lowered the classification of certain offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and correspondingly reduced the punishment for those offenses. Earlier this year, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a law that gave those changes retroactive effect, leading to Monday’s release. The USA Today piece says that the state expects to save $12 million by releasing the low-level offenders. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
The Asheville Citizen Times reports that the city’s police department has implemented a policy that requires officers to use a newly-developed written consent form prior to conducting a consent search. The form makes clear that people giving consent understand that they have a right to refuse the search, that their consent is given voluntarily, and that they understand that evidence discovered during the search may be used against them. Consent to search may still be given verbally, but the form also may be signed by the person who is the target of the search. The Citizen Times says that the new policy is controversial, with some arguing that the policy will reduce racial disparities in policing and others arguing that it will diminish officer safety. The APD’s press release about the new policy is available here. Keep reading for more news
The Greensboro News & Record reports that a United States House of Representatives subcommittee will hold a hearing in the city on Monday to hear about how North Carolina has overhauled its efforts to combat human trafficking. The House Subcommittee on Intelligence & Counterterrorism will hear from Randolph County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Aundrea Azelton; Christine Shaw Long, Executive Director of the North Carolina Human Trafficking Commission; Charlotte field office special agent for homeland security investigations Ronnie A. Martinez; and Carl L. Wall II, special agent in charge of the SBI’s human trafficking unit. The hearing, which is open to the public, will focus on information sharing efforts between local, state, and federal officials. Keep reading for more news.
This week the ACLU of North Carolina and North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services filed a class action lawsuit in state court arguing that solitary confinement practices used in the state’s prisons constitute cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the state constitution. In the suit, the plaintiffs say that people in solitary confinement “face substantial risks of serious psychological and physiological harm” and ask for a court order ceasing current practices and directing the formulation of new ones that comply with the constitution. Two of the named plaintiff inmates each have been in solitary confinement for more than 10 years; about 3,000 inmates were in solitary confinement at the end of July of this year. The News Roundup previously has noted that the Department of Public Safety has been investigating ways to reduce the use of solitary confinement. Keep reading for more news.
Last week the North Carolina State Bar was the target of a ransomware attack, a type cyberattack where the attacker gains control of a computer system and demands a ransom in exchange for relinquishing control of the system. As the State Bar explained in a statement late last week, the attack began as an infiltration of a single server and quickly spread to other servers, encrypting systems running on the servers as it went. It appears that personally identifiable information was not compromised by the ransomware, but the State Bar website and its membership and CLE portals were disabled. As of Tuesday, the website was back up and limited access to the portals was restored, though any changes made to the membership and CLE databases from September 24 through September 30 were lost. Keep reading for more news.
As WRAL reports, former state congressman and state Republican Party chairman Robin Hayes pleaded guilty in federal court this week to lying to the FBI during a bribery investigation involving political donor Greg Lindberg. Hayes was accused of helping Lindberg, who also has been indicted along with two associates, attempt to bribe North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey for favorable treatment of Lindberg’s insurance businesses. Causey reported the scheme and worked with federal authorities during the investigation. Conspiracy and bribery charges, as well as additional charges of lying to the FBI, were dismissed as part of a plea deal that requires Hayes to cooperate with the government in related prosecutions. Keep reading for more news.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety announced this week that it will temporarily suspend operations at three prisons to alleviate high staff vacancy rates and enhance safety and security in the state prison system. The announcement says that the statewide average correctional officer vacancy rate in August was 21% and that “[t]his level of staffing impacts operations . . . [and] negatively impact[s] the delivery of offender programs.” Operations will be suspended at Hoke Correctional Institution, Tyrrell Prison Work Farm, and Odom Correctional Institution. Employees at those prisons will be redeployed to nearby facilities. The News Roundup previously has noted that understaffing has been a problem at certain North Carolina prisons in recent years and may have been a factor in a deadly escape attempt at Pasquotank Correctional Institution in 2017. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
The former UNC Charlotte student who attacked a classroom on the school’s campus earlier this year, killing two people and wounding four others, pleaded guilty to murder in Mecklenburg Superior Court yesterday. The Charlotte Observer reports that as part of a plea agreement Trystan Andrew Terrell received two consecutive life sentences for killing Reed Parlier and Riley Howell; he also was sentenced on other charges not detailed in the report. Keep reading for more on this story and other news.
As the Charlotte Observer reports, former North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice I. Beverly Lake Jr. died on Thursday after a period of deteriorating health. The Observer report notes that Lake’s intense interest in preventing or rectifying wrongful convictions led to the establishment of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission and made the state a national model for conviction review. Lake served on the court for 12 years and was Chief Justice from 2001 to 2006. He was 85 years old. Keep reading for more news.