News Roundup

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The New Hanover County courthouse was closed yesterday to deal with “bedbugs . . . discovered by court personnel,” the News and Observer reports here. Yuck. In other news:

1. The General Statues posted on the General Assembly’s website are now current though January 5, 2012, so they’re essentially completely up to date. They’re certainly more current than the “red book,” as Shea noted here.

2. The front page of the News and Observer today featured a story about the lack of interpreters in North Carolina courts. The first few paragraphs capture the gist: “A federal investigation has found the North Carolina court system is violating the rights of people who speak little or no English by failing to provide sufficient interpreters. The U.S. Department of Justice found that, as a result, limited English speakers charged with crimes have had to spend additional time in jail when interpreters couldn’t be found. Others have possibly lost custody of their children. Federal officials say they could file suit against the state if the problems aren’t corrected; they also noted that the state’s courts have received millions in federal dollars that require compliance with civil rights laws. Officials with the N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts said they were disappointed in the Justice Department’s findings, but added that they had limited money for interpreters and felt the examples cited in the 18-page federal report were isolated cases.” The full story is here, and the report itself is here. The report came with a strongly worded cover letter which stated in part that the DOJ “determined after a comprehensive investigation that the AOC’s policies and practices discriminate on the basis of national origin, in violation of federal law, by failing to provide limited English proficient (LEP) individuals with meaningful access to state court proceedings and operations.” This isn’t a story that I have followed closely. Please post a comment if you have thoughts about the report or about the AOC’s response.

3. Those readers in the Triangle probably already know that Jason Young has been convicted of first-degree murder for killing his wife Michelle. An interesting post-trial development is that the presiding judge has ordered the SBI to investigate reports that some jurors communicated with non-jurors during deliberations. The issue arose after someone posted on WRAL TV’s Facebook page “My hairdresser is friends with a jury member on the JY trial. They are now deadlocked at 9 Guilty 3 Not Guilty. It was 7 Not Guilty 5 Guilty!” WRAL reported the post to the judge. The station’s story is here; it notes that the veracity of the post has not been confirmed and that even if the post was accurate, the impact on the verdict is unclear.

4. Speaking of jurors and social media, the Wall Street Journal recently published this story, about “how the use of social media is disrupting the jury trial.” My favorite snippet from the article is a survey revealing that 30% of federal judges have removed at least one juror for social-media-related misconduct, while more than 10% have declared at least one mistrial as a result of similar behavior.

5. Finally, I was captivated by this post on Sentencing Law and Policy, discussing a Chinese television show called “interviews before execution.” Every Saturday night, 40 million viewers tune in to watch a “glamorous” female host interview a condemned inmate. The host “warms up with anodyne questions about favourite films or music, but then hectors the prisoners about the violent details of their crimes and eventually wrings apologies out of them.” Apparently, very few inmates offered a spot on the show have declined. Whether that reflects pressure put on them by the authoritarian government or confirms the host’s claim that most inmates “want to be heard,” I have no idea.

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4 comments on “News Roundup

  1. According to Smartmoney.com, the Arkansas death penalty case tweet will probably cost the state $600,000. I assume the state would have a civil claim for this-what do you think would be the grounds or legal basis for the civil claim? Breach of “contract?”

  2. In Guilford County the interpreting is good for Spanish. An excellent interpreter. For other languages such as Viet Namese and Marshallese it has not been as proficient.

  3. A possible explanation for a lack of interpretors is the very difficult application process I’m told aspiring interpreters must go through to be certified. I’ve been told by many people who wanted to serve as an interpreter, that it was so hard to be certified, they decided not to bother.

  4. Here’s a summary of the fraud occurring inside the NC Court system:

    1.The Wake Court is not enforcing or allowing probable cause hearings to occur before jury trials and convictions. Per NCGS 15A-606, probable cause hearings are required (demand or waive) and should occur 21 business days after the defendant’s first appearance in district court. Without probable cause hearing, defendants are trapped in the Wake Court for a year and longer and then many are convicted without probable cause.
    2. No court form even exists to allow defendants to demand or waive probable cause hearings, or to plead NOT GUILTY.

    3. The ACIS court computer system records all court dates as jury trials; and defendants and their attorneys aren’t notified of either by court clerk Lorrin Freeman.

    4. Two fake court documents are in use in the Wake County Court, which keep people trapped in court for years and then convict them of misdemeanor DWI’s unlawfully.

    5. The Wake Court (DA Willoughby, Judge Stephens and Lorrin Freeman) continue to deny justice and financial relief to victims.

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