News Roundup

Happy belated Bill of Rights Day! The end of the year is supposed to be slow, but this week has been completely full of criminal justice news. Among the major stories are the following:

1. In Raleigh, Governor Perdue vetoed the de facto repeal of the Racial Justice Act. Republicans have the votes to override the veto in the Senate, but probably not in the House, as discussed here.

2. In Durham, novelist and formerly convicted murderer Michael Peterson has been awarded a new trial. Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson found that perjured testimony by ex-SBI agent Duane Deaver so required. Peterson has been released on bond while the state appeals the new trial order. The News and Observer is on top of the story here.

3. The Death Penalty Information Center released its 2011 year end report, available here. The first sentence of the report is “The number of new death sentences dropped dramatically in 2011, falling below 100 for the first time in the modern era of capital punishment.” The reasons for, and the significance of, the decline, are disputed. The DPIC report presents one view; a contrasting view is set forth here.

4. The National Transportation Safety Board, a five-member federal board responsible for, you guessed it, transportation safety, wants a national ban on the use of cell phones while driving, including hands-free devices. One of the board members called distracted driving the “new DUI.

5. A little farther afield, n Arkansas defendant who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death was awarded a new trial because a juror disregarded the judge’s instructions and tweeted/Twittered about the case. The posts themselves were infrequent and fairly opaque. For example, the juror wrote “Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken. We each define the great line.” But the juror lied about his activity when first confronted about it, and then continued to do post even after being admonished by the trial judge. Seems like the juror might be in a bit of hot water.

5. Finally, a colleague pointed me to the Forensic Resources blog, launched in August 2011 by Sarah Rackley, the Forensic Resource Counsel at IDS. Posts are episodic, but you can sign up for an email subscription if the content interests you. It covers subjects like DNA analysis, blood alcohol testing, digital evidence, and the like.

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