All roads lead to Fayetteville. Now, there’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. But this week, it’s true. Mainly, the first evidentiary hearing in a Racial Justice Act case is taking place there. Here’s today’s article from the Fayetteville Observer, which details some of the testimony that attorneys for death row inmate Marcus Reymond Robinson have presented in support of their contention that prosecutors across the state have systematically discriminated — consciously or not — against black prospective jurors in capital cases. I’m told that the state’s case will be presented next week. Meanwhile, the Fayetteville City Council has instructed the police department to refrain from asking motorists for consent to search during traffic stops. There are too many details and developments in that story to do it justice, but suffice it to say that there is controversy about at least the following: whether the police were conducting traffic stops or asking for consent in a discriminatory manner; whether the moratorium on requests for consent is good policy; and whether the Council has the authority to impose it. Today’s story is that the USDOJ has declined a request to investigate allegations of discrimination against the police department, while noting concerns about the department’s conduct.
Other stories of note include:
1. Governor Perdue has appointed Retired Superior Court Judge Leon Stanback as interim District Attorney in Durham. Recall that elected DA Tracey Cline has been suspended pending a full hearing, later this month, on a petition to remove her from office. The petition generally concerns her allegations against Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson.
2. The legislative committee working on reforming the Racial Justice Act is set to have its first meeting next Friday, February 10, as reported by the News and Observer here.
3. The commentary on the Jones GPS tracking case continues. The best argument I have read so far for the view that although the installation and monitoring of a GPS tracking device is a search, it is one that may normally be conducted without a warrant is this one, by GMU law professor Orin Kerr. Essentially, he argues that the automobile exception to the warrant requirement will be held to apply to GPS tracking of automobiles. It’s definitely worth a read, though I’m not ultimately convinced. Time will tell.
4. A few quick items from around the country: the Mississippi Supreme Court will review a legal challenge to some of the almost 200 pardons granted by Haley Barbour; a Philadelphia man who had been arrested 44 times without a single conviction saw his streak come to an end in a spectacular way; and South Dakota courts note an astonishing disparity in sentences imposed for child pornography crimes, with similar conduct resulting in a 41-day sentence in one case but a 100-year sentence in another. (Hat tips: Crime and Consequences; Sentencing Law & Policy.)
5. Finally, the funniest stories I saw all week concern law schools and their efforts to honor donors, professors, etc. Harvard Law has just opened a massive new building, and various spaces within it are named in honor of generous alumni. Even bathrooms. For example, the “Falik Men’s Room.” That’s not a joke, or at least, not exactly. Meanwhile, BYU Law has honored a long-time now emeritus professor with . . . a memorial trash can. Jeez, if I can just hang on at the School of Government for another 20 years, maybe I’ll get a printer cable or a dustpan named after me. Dare to dream!