News Roundup

The story generating the most interest this week is, in the words of the News and Observer, that “[a] two-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice has found that [Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson] and his deputies routinely discriminated against Latinos by making unwarranted arrests with the intent of maximizing deportations.” Among other conclusions, the report states that the Sheriff created a discriminatory culture and that and his deputies would arrest Spanish-speaking people even for minor traffic infractions in order to facilitate immigration status checks. (Update: the report itself is here.) The Sheriff denies the allegations and contends that the report is politically-driven. The federal government has just blocked the Sheriff’s access to its immigration databases and is pressing for remedial action like additional training for deputies regarding civil rights violations, and increased community outreach. The Alamance County Commissioners support the Sheriff.

In other news:

  1. Jessie Smith has just released the latest in her series of Administration of Justice Bulletins about the Confrontation Clause, this one centered on the recent decision in Williams v. Illinois, 567 U.S. ___, 132 S. Ct. 610 (2012). The Bulletin is free and is available here.
  2. Durham County Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson has been cleared of any misconduct following the Judicial Standards Commission’s investigation of allegations made by removed District Attorney Tracey Cline. The Commission found no probable cause to support Cline’s allegations.
  3. The New York Times discusses here a 471-page report by the U.S. Department of Justice Inspector General concerning Operation Fast and Furious. Generally, federal agents and prosecutors in Arizona knowingly allowed illegal weapons trafficking to Mexico in the hopes of building a case against higher-level criminals. The operation became notorious when some of the weapons were implicated in the shooting of a U.S. Border Patrol officer. The report blames over a dozen officials for poor judgment, but generally exonerates Attorney General Eric Holder, who it concludes was not briefed on the operation. In what I have to think is related news, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives appears to be considering a name change to the “Violent Crime Bureau.” Ah, rebranding.
  4. An Ohio death row inmate is seeking to have his execution delayed, claiming that at nearly 500 pounds, his weight could make finding a vein for the IV difficult or that he could collapse the gurney. Without getting into the execution issue, I do think the case raises some serious questions about how a prison inmate gained that much weight, whether obesity is a problem in prison, and what, if anything, should be done to moderate obese inmates’ access to food, including canteen items.
  5. Finally, two stories I couldn’t resist. First, in New Hampshire, a jury acquitted a 59-year-old committed Rastafarian of drug charges, finding that marijuana use was part of the defendant’s religion. The trial judge actually instructed the jury on jury nullification, which is quite unusual. Second, a 15-year-old girl in Texas is driving a Lamborghini Gallardo LP570-4 Super Trofeo Stradale to high school. (Picture below.) What’s the legal angle? It appears that the girl is licensed under a Texas provision allowing licensure prior to age 16 when “[t]he applicant’s family faces an unusual economic hardship and is being deprived of the basic necessities of life.” Readers in the 1% might think that having a Lamborghini rather than a Ferrari is a hardship . . . but the kid’s 18-year-old brother has been seen in a Ferrari 458.

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