North Carolina’s law governing the disclosure and release of body-worn camera footage took center stage last spring following the shooting of Andrew Brown in Elizabeth City. John Rubin wrote here about litigation on that issue, noting that one prominent feature of the statutory scheme was that determining matters of disclosure and release “takes time.” This session, the General Assembly amended the rules governing disclosure of recordings that depict death or serious bodily injury to require (1) that a court determine whether a recording be disclosed; and (2) that the court make such a determination within seven business days of the filing of a disclosure petition. This post will review those changes.
Category Archives: Procedure
We recently invited North Carolina jurisdictions to apply to participate in the NC Court Appearance Project. The project is supported by the UNC School of Government Criminal Justice Innovation Lab and The Pew Charitable Trusts. We’re excited to announce our three project sites: New Hanover, Orange, and Robeson Counties. We will be supporting stakeholders in these jurisdictions as they examine the scope and impact of missed court dates and explore ways to improve court appearance rates and responses to missed court dates. Each site has a project team composed of local judges, the DA, the Public Defender or a defense representative, the sheriff, the clerk of court and other officials. Because we’re interested to help stakeholders explore solutions that can work across diverse jurisdictions, we’re happy to have participation from an urban county, a suburban county, and a rural county. Thanks to everyone that applied—we wish we could have included all of you! Continue reading →
Changes in North Carolina’s First Appearance Process, Effective for Criminal Processes Served on or after December 1, 2021
On September 2, 2021, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper signed Session Law 2021-138 (S300) into law. The law makes wide ranging changes to the state’s criminal law and procedure, including adjustments to satellite-based monitoring based on Grady v. North Carolina, limitations on the enactment of local ordinance crimes, and revised standards for the hiring, certification, and decertification of law enforcement officers. The law has various effective dates, depending on the particular provision. This post will concentrate on changes to first appearance requirements. My colleagues will address other aspects of the changes made by this law in future blog posts. Continue reading →
The first sentence of State v. Newborn, ___ N.C. App. ___, 2021-NCCOA-426 (Aug. 17, 2021) sums up the issue: “When the charge of possession of a firearm by a felon is brought in an indictment containing other related offenses, the indictment for that charge is rendered fatally defective and invalid, thereby depriving a trial court of jurisdiction over it.”
Even after I read it that straightforward statement, I questioned my understanding. This rule struck me as inconsistent with recent caselaw holding that the violation of statutory pleading rules for prior convictions does not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction. See State v. Brice, 370 N.C. 244 (2017). But (ipso facto) that is the rule for felon in possession indictments, which prosecutors ignore at the case’s peril.
Last year, the General Assembly appropriated $3.5 million from federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding to the Department of Public Safety to be used as a grant for Caitlyn’s Courage, Inc. See S.L. 2020-80 as modified by S.L. 2020-78. The non-profit was to use the funds to conduct pilot programs in at least nine judicial districts through which it would provide GPS electronic monitoring devices to be used as a condition of pretrial release for defendants charged with crimes related to stalking, sexual assault, domestic abuse, and violations of a domestic violence protective order. The legislation directed Caitlyn’s Courage to report back to the General Assembly on the effectiveness of the programs and on recommendations for expansion. This post discusses the Caitlyn’s Courage programs, reviews highlights from its April 2021 report to the legislature (“the Report”), and cites a legislative proposal to allocate substantially more funding to expand this type of programming statewide.
Suppose a juror falls ill during the second day of deliberations following a two-week trial and is unable to continue her service. What are the trial court’s options?
A. Replace the juror with an alternate juror.
B. Declare a mistrial.
C. Either A or B, in the trial court’s discretion.
The case is ready for trial and all parties are present. From the bench, the judge makes a final attempt to resolve the case by saying “if we need to do a trial that’s fine, and I can call for a jury right now — but I’m just letting you all know that if the defendant was willing to plead to count 1 and state was willing to dismiss count 2, I’d be inclined to give supervised probation and we could get this case wrapped up today.”
Of course every county and every judge is unique, but most criminal attorneys have at least occasionally experienced some type of participation from the bench in working out a plea. So we know that it happens, but is it actually authorized by our statutes? Should it be? If it is, what are the limits, and what’s fair game for negotiation? Are the judge’s terms binding?
Blame it on the pandemic, I suppose, but somehow I missed this interesting article from March of last year that looked into how often (and why) search warrants are sealed in North Carolina. Former SOG faculty member Michael Crowell was quoted in the article, and his blog post discussing the significance of In re Cooper, 200 N.C. App. 180 (2009) for sealed warrants is available here. I highly recommend reading both, if you haven’t already seen them
Those articles reminded me of a similar issue that I’ve occasionally had questions about, but I don’t think we’ve ever covered on this blog. What about sealed indictments?
Half of the adults in North Carolina have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and the number of people testing positive for the virus in the state continues to plummet. Fewer than 200 positive cases were identified on the last day for which case counts were reported. Metrics like these signal the waning of a pandemic that has altered the lives of North Carolinians over the past 15 months and that has hampered the operations of state courts. On Friday, Chief Justice Paul Newby issued an order, effective today, extending only two of the dozens of emergency directives that have been issued over the course of the pandemic. Noting that COVID-19 concerns have caused cases to accumulate in the courts, Justice Newby stated that he was extending for 30 days only those directives necessary to dispose of those accumulated cases: Emergency Directive 3 and Emergency Directive 5.
We get a lot of questions about motions for appropriate relief (“MARs”). Post-conviction can be a daunting area for practitioners and judges alike. On the state and federal levels, the procedural issues alone can feel like a maze. A recent(ish) case from the Court of Appeals, State v. Blake, ___ N.C. App. ___, 853 S.E.2d 838 (Dec. 31, 2020), shines some light on aspects of the procedural bar in state post-conviction proceedings and is the subject of today’s post. Continue reading →