Last week, the FBI searched former President Trump’s home at the Mar-a-Lago Club pursuant to a search warrant. At first none of the relevant documents were publicly available. The application, the warrant itself, and the inventory were all sealed. The Government, with the consent of former President Trump, later moved to unseal the warrant and the inventory. That motion was granted and anyone can access the now-public documents here. The application remains under seal, though members of the news media have moved to unseal it. Because several people asked me about public access to federal search warrants and related documents, and because the process isn’t exactly the same as it is under state law, I thought I’d do a post comparing state and federal law on this issue. Continue reading
Editor’s note: This post contains vulgar language that isn’t suitable for children and quite possibly many adults. If you’re an email subscriber, your spam filter probably won’t like it, either. Also, it is quite long.
A federal court of appeals recently ruled in favor of a man who called a group of police officers “bitch ass fucking pigs,” “motherfuckers,” and “dirty rat bastards.” It found that his arrest on disorderly conduct charges was unjustified because “mere epithets” directed at a law enforcement officer, no matter how coarse or profane, do not constitute fighting words and are protected by the First Amendment. Wood v. Eubanks, 25 F.4th 414 (6th Cir. 2022). This raises the question: do police officers really have to put up with this? Continue reading →
Matthew Fishman, a sergeant in the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, was shot and killed this week while attempting to serve involuntary commitment papers. He leaves behind a wife and two children, as well as many other friends and family members. Two other deputies were also shot but will survive. The man they were trying to serve shot and killed himself before a SWAT team entered his home. ABC11 has the story here. Read on for more, and less tragic, news. Continue reading →
Over the past several months, I’ve been dropping by clerks’ offices to look at search warrants. I’ve made it to six offices, including offices in eastern, central, and western North Carolina, and in urban and rural areas. I’ve reviewed and made notes on 279 warrants and have at least skimmed hundreds more. The warrants I’ve reviewed were sought by 38 different agencies for a range of offenses. What follows are a few observations based on what I saw. Continue reading →
The indispensable search and seizure legal reference is back and better than ever! That’s right, the sixth edition of Arrest, Search, and Investigation in North Carolina is now available for purchase here on the School of Government’s website. Read on for more information about the content, changes, and pricing of the new edition. Continue reading →
CNN reports here that a “West Virginia woman has awoken from a two-year coma and identified her brother as her attacker.” Wanda Palmer was brutally assaulted in 2020, with first responders initially believing that she was dead. She wasn’t, though she was comatose. She began to emerge from the coma last month, and now is apparently coherent though unable to hold full-length conversations. After naming her brother Daniel as her assailant, she was asked why he attacked her. She reportedly responded “because he’s mean.” Daniel Palmer has been arrested for attempted murder. A criminal defense lawyer considers how an identification like this may play in court here on Fox News. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
According to the CDC, a “sharp instrument” was used in over 1,300 homicides in 2019. Knives are dangerous and police officers are justified in treating them as such. Under what circumstances may an officer shoot someone who refuses to drop a knife? Continue reading →
Over the past two weeks there have been several developments related to the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955. Till, who was Black, was 14 years old at the time. A White woman named Carolyn Bryant Donham apparently reported that he whistled at her, grabbed her, and propositioned her while she was in a grocery store. Ms. Donham’s then-husband and another White man responded to her allegations by abducting Till from his home at gunpoint and killing him. The men were charged with murder, were acquitted by an all-White jury, and later admitted culpability in media interviews. Durham historian Timothy Tyson wrote about the incident in his 2017 book The Blood of Emmett Till.
Two weeks ago, the New York Times reported on the discovery of a 1955 kidnapping warrant for Ms. Donham, who is in her 80s and apparently lives here in North Carolina. The arrest warrant is technically still valid but the experts interviewed by the Times say it is unlikely to be served without a current examination of the potential merits of the case.
Speaking of which, the Associated Press reported yesterday on its review of an unpublished 99-page memoir by Ms. Donham. The memoir was provided to the AP by Mr. Tyson, who had obtained the document from Ms. Donham but “placed the manuscript in an archive at the University of North Carolina with the agreement that it not be made public for decades.” He decided to break the agreement after the Times story noted above. According to the AP story, Ms. Donham’s memoir generally portrays herself as attempting to prevent harm from coming to Till, but also contradicts some of her previous statements and is inconsistent with other evidence in the case, raising questions about her credibility. Stay tuned for further developments and keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
Shinzo Abe, former Prime Minister of Japan, was shot and killed last week. News reports suggest that the man who killed him used a crude homemade gun. How are homemade guns regulated here? Continue reading →
Yesterday, Justice Stephen Breyer officially resigned his seat on the Supreme Court of the United States after 28 years of service. Justice Breyer, universally described as a kind and humble person, was one of the more liberal members of the current Court on criminal justice matters. In his famous dissent in Glossip v. Gross, 576 U.S. 863 (2015), he argued that the death penalty “in and of itself” constitutes a cruel and unusual punishment prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. His replacement and former law clerk, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, was sworn in by Chief Justice Roberts. ABC news has more details here, including a lovely picture of Justices Breyer and Brown Jackson together. Keep reading for more news. Continue reading →