Carolina Public Press reports that Governor Cooper’s administration and the NC NAACP have reached a settlement in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the conditions of confinement in North Carolina prisons during the ongoing pandemic. The report says the settlement provides for the early release of 3,500 people over the next 180 days and notes that the prison population has decreased by about 6,000 people since February of last year. In addition, an anonymous complaint system must be established for incarcerated people to report noncompliance with virus mitigation requirements. Keep reading for more news.
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In late 2020 and early 2021, stakeholders in Orange County, North Carolina implemented new bail reform initiatives. The new initiatives build on earlier efforts. Specifically, stakeholders already had funded a county pretrial services program; adopted an empirical risk assessment tool to inform judges’ pretrial decision-making; established a “strike order court,” affording relief from court non-appearances in appropriate cases; instituted pre-arrest diversion with law enforcement support; and established specialized courts to more effectively address the needs of those who enter the criminal justice system because of underlying issues such as poverty, homelessness, substance use, and mental health concerns. Additionally, local police departments and the sheriff’s office had implemented new policing practices, such as citation in lieu of arrest, to promote the county’s pretrial goals. And in 2018, the Orange County Board of County Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the 3DaysCount initiative, a national effort to improve community safety by applying common sense solutions to pretrial justice issues. Notwithstanding these efforts and actions and the statutory mandate that conditions other than secured bond must be imposed unless the judicial official finds certain factors, G.S. 15A-534(b), data showed that secured bonds continued to be the most common condition of pretrial release used in the county, even in misdemeanor cases. Stakeholders also reported concerns that low-risk individuals were being unnecessarily detained pretrial on money bonds they could not pay. Continue reading →
Children in North Carolina can be tried as respondents in delinquency proceedings for their actions beginning at age 6. The inclusion of young children in delinquency jurisdiction, some of whom may be young enough to remain staunch believers in Santa and to eagerly await a visit from the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny, raises significant legal questions in light of their developmental maturity. Those questions include:
- whether the infancy defense should play a role in delinquency proceedings?
- whether the capacity standard used in delinquency proceedings should explicitly account for developmental immaturity?
- at what point do children develop the skills necessary to function as a competent respondent?
A new Juvenile Law Bulletin, Including Young Children in Delinquency Jurisdiction: Issues of Infancy and Capacity, is now available and discusses these issues in-depth. This blog provides some highlights of the bulletin. Continue reading →
Twice over the last few weeks, I have been asked to teach public officials about North Carolina’s courts. In my day-to-day work, I spend a lot of time thinking about what our court officials do in particular cases and the law that governs those choices. I less often consider the structure in which they carry out that work. In preparing to talk about that broader topic, I gathered a few thoughts and, more importantly, links to important resources that I thought readers might find of interest.
A multi-state search for a woman wanted in connection with a January murder at a Hickory furniture plant is ongoing this week and a U.S. Marshal said that there is a good chance that the woman and her husband, who also is wanted on suspicion of being an accessory after the fact, are still in the greater Hickory area. Keep reading for more on this story and other news.
This post summarizes published criminal and related decisions decided in January 2021 by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals which may be of interest to state practitioners (along with one from December that I missed before). Continue reading →
The Fayetteville Observer reports that Fayetteville law enforcement is asking the public for information about a disturbing series of burglaries in the city over the past few months. On several occasions, home security cameras have captured images of a masked person wearing kneepads burglarizing people’s homes while they slept inside. A police spokesman said that the suspect appears to be intentionally targeting the homes of elderly people. Keep reading for more news.
I was recently updating a list of review questions for a course on larceny offenses when I came across a version of this scenario: a woman tells her friend that she left one of her items behind in the store and asks the friend to go retrieve it for her, but in fact the woman never purchased it. If the friend goes back and gets it, what’s the crime and who gets charged?
The question usually prompts a good discussion about conventional charging options like conspiracy, acting in concert, aiding and abetting, or being an accessory. Phil Dixon wrote this helpful post summarizing the most common theories of principal liability and their pleading requirements, but none of those are a perfect fit for these facts. The woman wasn’t present at the scene and didn’t personally take the item, and the friend was unaware of what was happening so there was no common purpose or criminal intent on her part.
I think the best answer is the rarely mentioned “other” theory of principal liability we have in North Carolina: Acting Indirectly, also known as the Innocent Agent doctrine.
As USA Today reports, fallen United States Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed during a violent insurrection by extremist supporters of former President Donald Trump in early January, laid in honor in the Capitol Rotunda on Wednesday before his interment at Arlington National Cemetery. Sicknick is the third Capitol Police officer to receive that honor, the first two being Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson who were shot by an armed intruder in 1998. Keep reading for more news.
This post summarizes published criminal decisions from the North Carolina Court of Appeals released on February 2, 2021. Gabrielle Supak and Jamie Markham prepared these summaries. As always, they will be added to Smith’s Criminal Case Compendium, a free and searchable database of case summaries from 2008 to present. Continue reading →