News Roundup

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Earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters have been top-of-mind for most North Carolina residents this week. Not for me, though. I have remained focused like a laser beam on tracking criminal law news.

1. I blogged last week about the Durham murder case that was dismissed due to the state’s release of the decedent’s bones to her family after a defense request for the preservation of physical evidence. As expected, the state has appealed the dismissal, and the court of appeals has stayed the dismissal pending resolution of the appeal. The News and Observer has the story here.

2. The paper also recently ran this story, about a break-in at the state supreme court building. The perpetrator only got into a stairwell, so the work of the court has not been impaired. Justice Edmunds discovered the intrusion when he came in to work on Sunday evening.

3. The sexual assault charges against Dominique Strauss-Kahn have been dismissed. The New York Times has this story on point. In a nutshell, prosecutors lost confidence in the complaining witness after learning that she had lied about her past and, likely, about at least some aspects of her encounter with Strauss-Kahn.

4. The United States Supreme Court is poised to consider the issue of eyewitness identification in the coming Term, for the first time since 1977. Adam Liptak’s story for the Times is here. It’s a good read, opening as follows: “Every year, more than 75,000 eyewitnesses identify suspects in criminal investigations. Those identifications are wrong about a third of the time, a pile of studies suggest.” Whatever the Court does with respect to eyewitness identifications — and it might do quite a lot, or it might do very little — change is again afoot in New Jersey, which has been an influential leader in this area. The AP covers the story here, noting that the state high court has changed some procedural rules, making pretrial hearings on the admissibility of eyewitness identifications easier for defendants to obtain. The story also states that the new rules will “require judges to give more detailed instructions to juries about the potential flaws with eyewitness identifications — in some cases before a witness takes the stand so that jurors can listen more critically.”

5. Although it hasn’t yet granted certiorari on the issue, it’s starting to look like the Supreme Court will also need to address the retroactivity of Padilla v. Kentucky, __ U.S. __, 130 S. Ct. 1473 (2010), which held that criminal defense attorneys must advise clients about relevant immigration consequences of potential criminal convictions. A divided panel of the Seventh Circuit just ruled that Padilla is not retroactive, creating a circuit split on the issue. Sentencing Law and Policy covers the Seventh Circuit’s decision here.

6. Finally, a couple of quick items of possible interest. The WSJ Law Blog considers the constitutionality of red light cameras here, noting that at least a dozen cities have banned the devices. Meanwhile, Gizmodo discusses an initiative being implemented in Surrey, England, to give citizens real-time information about the location and activities of police, under the headline Hey Criminals! Your Town Made You an App to Track Cops. Finally, the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes here that an individual named Eric Gein, proprietor of a business called Serial Killers Ink, is selling dirt from the backyard of an Ohio murderer’s house for $25 per gram. Gein claims that the dirt is valuable because the killer’s victims were buried in it, and that he expects to sell it to “professors of criminal law,” among others. Not this one, at any rate.

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2 comments on “News Roundup

  1. I have long considered attacks on the admissibility of eyewitness identification testimony to be nothing but defense-oriented hokum, designed primarily to make it easier for the guilty to go free. But even this former prosecutor can no longer ignore the mounting evidence that such testimony can sometimes be mistaken, and often tragically so.

    It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court addresses the (admittedly) limited issues before it in Perry v. NH.

  2. The constitutionality of North Carolina’s red light camera program was challenged in Shavitz v. City of High Point, 270 F.Supp.2d 702 (MDNC 2003), and the court found that the cameras met both due process and equal protection requirements. The remaining issue was whether the public schools were entitled to the proceeds of the red light camera penalties under Article IX, Section 7 of the NC Constitution, and that question was decided in favor of the schools by the NC Court of Appeals. Most, but not all, local governments discontinued their use of red light cameras in response to the decision that they could not use the proceeds to pay the contractor operating the cameras but instead had to give the money to the schools.

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