According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, the nation’s police officers say that “recent high-profile fatal encounters between black citizens and officers have made their jobs riskier, aggravated tensions between police and blacks, and left many officers reluctant to fully carry out some of their duties.” In a survey of more than 8,000 officers, roughly three-quarters of respondents said that they are more reluctant to use force when it is appropriate and a similar number reported less willingness to stop and question people who seem suspicious. While these results are generating headlines, the survey is wide-ranging and includes a variety of information about officers’ experiences in a challenging profession to which an overwhelming majority (96 percent) feel strongly committed. Keep reading for more news.
As the New York Times reports, the sentencing phase of Dylann Roof’s federal death penalty trial began this week following his December conviction on thirty-three charges arising from murdering nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Roof is representing himself during this phase of the trial. In a brief opening statement, Roof repeatedly told jurors that he was not mentally ill. In what is described as a “white supremacist manifesto” disclosed during the prosecution’s opening statement, Roof wrote that he did not regret his actions and had “not shed a tear for the innocent people I killed.” An opinion piece from NBC News argues that Roof “has a constitutional right not to try to spare his own life.” Keep reading for more news.
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Stories about heroin and opioids have been a hot topic in the News Roundup this year as jurisdictions across the state and country have struggled with an unprecedented surge in overdoses. CBS News reports that a record number of Americans died from drug overdoses last year. Heroin deaths rose twenty-three percent to nearly thirteen thousand deaths, a figure which exceeds the number of gun homicides over the same period of time.
Keep reading for the final blog post of the year – the North Carolina Criminal Law blog is signing off for the holidays and wishing our readers a safe and happy season. We’ll have new posts beginning January 3.
Diners at a Washington D.C. pizza restaurant, Comet Ping Pong, were terrified Sunday when a North Carolina man, Edgar M. Welch of Salisbury, entered the restaurant and fired a rifle in an effort to “self investigate” an online story known as “Pizzagate.” Keep reading for more details about this bizarre incident and for more news of the week.
As the Charlotte Observer reports, Mecklenburg District Attorney Andrew Murray announced Wednesday that the officer who fatally shot Keith Lamont Scott earlier this year lawfully used deadly force and will not face criminal charges. Murray explained that a CMPD and SBI investigation into the shooting indicated that Scott was armed with a handgun during the deadly confrontation with officers and ignored commands to drop the weapon. According to another report by the Observer, protestors marched from CMPD headquarters to the city center following the announcement; speakers at the protest called for increased police transparency. Keep reading for more news.
The Washington Post reports that voters in Nebraska, California, and Oklahoma showed their support for the death penalty by “rejecting measures that would abolish it and, in one case, giving lawmakers more room to find new execution methods.” In Oklahoma, voters approved a proposal to add language to the state constitution explicitly stating that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment, and gave state lawmakers the ability to adopt “any method of execution not prohibited by the United States Constitution.” As the News Roundup previously has noted, obtaining the drugs typically used for lethal injection is becoming increasingly difficult. Keep reading for more news.
Two Iowa police officers were shot and killed early Wednesday morning in ambush attacks that made national news. As the Des Moines Register reports, Urbandale Police Officer Justin Martin and Des Moines Police Sgt. Anthony Beminio each were shot while in their vehicles. The lone suspect, Scott Michael Greene, was apprehended a few hours after the shootings. Early reports indicate that Greene had a run-in with Urbandale officers in the middle of last month after an incident at a high school football game where he waved a Confederate flag in front of a group of African-Americans and was ejected from the stadium. The stadium is located at a traffic intersection where one of the officers was shot. Keep reading for more news.
The NC Department of Public Safety says that a portion of Neuse Correctional Institution was evacuated on Monday morning following a disturbance that started late Sunday afternoon. According to a press release, a small group of inmates “set two separate fires, one inside the prison’s diagnostic building and one that destroyed a storage shed.” The inmates also broke windows and damaged four dorms. Approximately 500 inmates were transferred to other prisons because of the damage. Keep reading for more news.
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As the News & Observer reports, the Orange County Republican Party headquarters in Hillsborough was firebombed and vandalized over the weekend. According to the report, “[a] flaming bottle was thrown through a window of the office” and an adjacent building was vandalized with paintings of a swastika and the phrase “Nazi Republicans leave town or else.” The incident drew the attention of both presidential candidates, and vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence and Governor McCrory each visited the headquarters. McCrory has offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Keep reading for more news.
Hurricane Matthew hit Eastern North Carolina hard over the weekend. Twenty North Carolinians lost their lives and many communities experienced severe flooding. The Fayetteville Observer has extensive coverage of the aftermath of the storm, including remarkable aerial photographs of flooded Lumberton. Governor McCrory has activated the Hurricane Matthew Relief Fund and the North Carolina Department of Justice is warning residents of areas damaged by the hurricane to be wary of scams in the wake of the storm. A number of courthouses are closed because of the storm and the AOC has a list of closings available here. Best wishes for a speedy recovery from the hurricane; keep reading for more news.