A shocking murder transfixed the nation this week and led to a multi-state manhunt that ended Tuesday with the perpetrator’s suicide. In Cleveland on Sunday, Steve W. Stephens posted a video to Facebook where he shoots and kills Robert Godwin Sr., a stranger to Stephens seemingly targeted at random. The News Hour has an overview of the story here. After a two-day manhunt, a McDonalds employee in Pennsylvania recognized Stephens and called police. Following a brief chase ended by a PIT maneuver, Stephens killed himself. Keep reading for more news.
The News & Observer reports that the General Assembly has passed a bill that reduces the number of judges on the North Carolina Court of Appeals from fifteen to twelve. The bill is controversial – supporters say that fewer judges are needed because the workload of the Court of Appeals has declined over the past decade while opponents say that the intent of the bill is to limit Governor Roy Cooper’s ability to replace judges who are approaching mandatory retirement. The legislation is House Bill 239, which Jeff mentioned a few weeks ago in a post about the court’s caseload.
This is the last post of the week as the SOG is closed tomorrow for a holiday, keep reading for more news.
Arkansas is preparing to execute eight death row prisoners over the course of eleven days later this month in an effort to carry out death sentences before one of the drugs the state uses for lethal injection expires. NPR has an overview of the situation here. The plan, which involves executing two prisoners a day, is being criticized on various grounds including that it diminishes the significance of the punishment, risks botched executions, exposes prison staff to significant stress, and leaves insufficient time for clemency appeals. Keep reading for more news.
The Associated Press reports that North Carolina has become the first state in the nation to require all attorneys, regardless of practice area, to reveal any credible evidence or information that creates a reasonable likelihood that a person convicted of a crime is innocent. The disclosure requirement was adopted earlier this month as Rule of Professional Conduct 8.6 – “Information About a Possible Wrongful Conviction.” Keep reading for more news.
A deadly terrorist attack outside the British Parliament in London is dominating international headlines this week. As the New York Times reports, a British-born man, Khalid Masood, has been identified as the perpetrator and the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack. Three people were killed, including a Utah man, when Masood drove a vehicle into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and then fatally stabbed a police constable. Masood was shot and killed by police. Keep reading for more news.
A Wilmington traffic stop involving an Uber driver has received national attention over the past two weeks because officers involved in the stop falsely told the driver, who happened to be a lawyer, that it was illegal to film police. Jesse Bright, a criminal defense attorney and part-time Uber driver, was using his cellphone to record his traffic stop when an officer told him to stop recording because it violated a recently enacted law. In fact, there is no such law and Wilmington and New Hanover County law enforcement officials later released statements confirming that it is legal to record encounters with police and encouraging citizens to do so.
Over the past week the Associated Press has published reports describing instances of physical and emotional abuse at the Word of Faith Fellowship church in Spindale. According to the AP, congregants, including children, “were regularly punched, smacked, choked, slammed to the floor or thrown through walls in a violent form of deliverance meant to ‘purify’ sinners by beating out devils.” Former congregants have alleged that two members of the church who are assistant district attorneys in Prosecutorial District 25 helped cover up the abuse. Keep reading for more news.
As the New York Times reports, the United States Supreme Court heard oral argument this week in Packingham v. North Carolina, a case that presents the question of whether prohibiting sex offenders from accessing social networking websites, as North Carolina does with G.S. 14-202.5, violates the First Amendment. If you’re not up to speed on Packingham, check out Jamie’s 2013 post discussing the North Carolina Court of Appeals decision holding G.S. 14-202.5 facially unconstitutional, and then check out Jeff’s 2015 News Roundup entry explaining the North Carolina Supreme Court’s subsequent reversal of the lower appellate court. A transcript of the oral argument is available here and a SCOTUSblog argument analysis, suggesting that the Justices were skeptical of the constitutionality of the law, is available here. Keep reading for more news.
Earlier this week the SBI executed a search warrant at a Hoke County administrative office, taking control of the building Monday afternoon and searching it for several hours. County officials quoted in the Fayetteville Observer suggest that the investigation involves an issue with employee time sheets, but Sherriff Hubert Peterkin said that time sheets aren’t the exclusive focus. Another article from the Observer says that one county employee resigned on Tuesday and a Sherriff’s deputy was fired. Keep reading for more news.
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Late last week President Donald Trump signed three Executive Orders that a White House blog post says are intended to “fight crime, gangs, and drugs; restore law and order; and support the dedicated men and women of law enforcement.” A press release from the White House says that one of the orders directs Attorney General Jeff Sessions to develop a strategy to more effectively prosecute people who commit crimes against law enforcement officers; that the second order establishes a task force led by Sessions to reduce crime and restore public safety in American communities; and that the third focuses energy and resources on dismantling drug cartels and other transnational criminal organizations. Keep reading for more news.