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Welcome, Daniel Spiegel!

It is my pleasure to announce that Daniel “Danny” Spiegel has joined the Courts Group faculty here at the School of Government as an expert in criminal law. We are thrilled to have him as a part of the team. Danny’s work will primarily focus on defender issues, but he will also teach and advise judicial officials and other court system actors. I expect Danny will soon be a regular voice on the blog and presenter at SOG trainings. Please join me in giving Danny a warm welcome to the SOG!

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When Child Abuse or Neglect Ends in a Fatality, What Does the Public Have a Right to Know?

The following post is authored by SOG faculty member Kristi Nickodem. A version of this post is also available on the Coates’ Canons and On the Civil Side SOG blogs.   

When abuse or neglect leads to the death of a child, concerned citizens, public officials, and members of the media often have questions about the circumstances leading up to the fatality. A North Carolina statute, G.S. 7B-2902, requires any public agency—including law enforcement agencies and departments of social services—to disclose a written summary of particular “findings and information” upon request with respect to child fatalities that meet certain criteria. Within five working days of when a public agency receives such a request, the agency is required to consult with the district attorney who is involved in the case concerning the child’s fatality or near fatality to determine what information may be released. This blog post discusses the responsibilities of public agencies to disclose information under G.S. 7B-2902, circumstances in which information may be withheld from public disclosure, and the role of the district attorney in consulting on what information may be released.

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News Roundup

A longtime North Carolina resident and former professor at East Carolina University was reportedly responsible for a mass shooting on the campus of the University of Nevada at Las Vegas this week. According to the story, the man graduated from a Duke University graduate program in 1991 and taught at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC from 2001 to 2017. He was killed by campus police after allegedly taking the lives of three faculty members and wounding a fourth. He also apparently had a hit list that included ECU employees. Read on for more criminal law news.

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New Trafficking Fines Coming for Heroin, Fentanyl, and Carfentanil

My colleague Jeff Welty recently wrote about S.L. 2023-123 and changes to our death by drug distribution laws. He mentioned changes to the mandatory drug trafficking fines for certain drugs there, but I wanted to follow up on that point with the details. The new law, with new fines for certain controlled substances, takes effect on December 1, 2023. This post examines the coming changes to drug trafficking fines. Consistent with my defender-focused role, it also explores potential constitutional issues defenders might consider raising in cases where the new fines apply.

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News Roundup

A group in Massachusetts is working to clear the names of people accused of witchcraft, according to this report from the AP. The Massachusetts Witch-Hunt Justice Project includes historians and distant relatives of the hundreds of people who were charged, tried for, or convicted of witchery in the state during the 17th century. A similar effort in Connecticut resulted in a legislative resolution of innocence on behalf of the accused and an apology. According to this story, the last witchcraft trial in North America took place in Virigina in 1706. Read on for more criminal law news.

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Substitute Analyst Testimony and Smith v. Arizona

I mentioned in a recent News Roundup that the U.S. Supreme Court granted review in Smith v. Arizona. The case tees up a question that has been lingering since at least 2012: Does the Confrontation Clause permit the admission of substitute forensic analyst testimony? This issue arises when a forensic report is prepared for use in a criminal case, but the testing analyst is not available for trial. Instead of admitting the report through the original analyst, the State calls a different expert—one not necessarily involved in the original testing—to offer an opinion about the accuracy of the report. North Carolina generally allows such testimony, but there is a split among jurisdictions on the issue. Smith has the potential to alter the legal landscape here and elsewhere regarding the use of substitute analyst testimony, so today’s post dives into the legal issues and potential impact of the case.

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News Roundup

After more than 25 years, an arrest has been made in the killing of the rapper Tupac Shakur, as AP news reports here. “Pac” died in a drive-by shooting in 1996 in Las Vegas at the age of 25. The suspect is charged in Nevada state court with murder by deadly weapon. Police allege that the man supplied the gun and otherwise assisted in the homicide. The defendant is the last living suspect in the case and has apparently publicly acknowledged his presence at the crime scene and involvement over the years. According to this piece from Time, the arrest is linked to the investigation of another infamous unsolved killing, the murder of Christopher Wallace, a/k/a “the Notorious B.I.G.” He was killed in Los Angeles at age 24 around six months after Tupac. The impact of both men’s short-lived careers on hip-hop can hardly be overstated. Still no word on who shot Biggie Smalls. Read on for more criminal law news.

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