News Roundup

Last night, I attended the annual awards dinner for the North Carolina Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section. It was fantastic and inspiring, as it is every year. Congratulations to long-time Cumberland County assistant district attorney Cal Colyer, the first person other than an elected district attorney to win the Peter Gilchrist award, and to Charlotte defense attorney James Ferguson for taking home the Wade Smith award. In other news:

  1. Not as inspiring: Raleigh defense attorney James Crouch pled guilty to felony obstruction of justice and other charges as part of the DWI backdating scandal that brought down Wake County District Court Judge Kristin Ruth. Mr. Crouch pled guilty on the eve of trial, apparently after his own lawyers determined that he had falsified financial records in an attempt to avoid conviction. The News and Observer has the story here.
  2. The paper also reported here that 2012 will end with zero death sentences returned by North Carolina juries, for the first time since the death penalty was reinstated in 1977. There were only four capital trials all year.
  3. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Maryland v. King, a case that presents the following question: “Does the Fourth Amendment allow the States to collect and analyze DNA from people arrested and charged with serious crimes?” I previously noted the possibility of the Court taking the issue, and the potential impact on North Carolina’s DNA-on-arrest statute, here.
  4. Fans of the TV show Law and Order, people with an appreciation for data collection, and those who simply appreciate a beautiful obsession when they see one will like this article, which categorizes all 456 episodes of the show based on the ending: guilty plea, conviction at trial, acquittal, and so on. The article contains useful graphs, notes several trends over time, and suggests possible explanations for the observed variation. In other words, it’s more interesting than the average academic statistical study. (Thanks to a reader for flagging this item.)
  5. I don’t which is more worrisome: this story, which asserts that law is the profession with the second-highest proportion of psychopaths, or this one, which notes the similarities between the life of a federal prison inmate and the life of a law firm associate.
  6. Finally, I know I haven’t mentioned the investigation that led to the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus. I hope to post about the case in some detail next week, because the course of the investigation illustrates some important points about law enforcement access to digital evidence. So it isn’t just shameless gossip! Stay tuned.
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