News Roundup

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Hot sauce, simulated sex, and echoes of the notorious Abu Ghraib prison are allegedly involved in one of this week’s most disturbing stories. Yahoo! News reports here that six inmates from Sampson Correctional Institution claim that prison staff “forced them to perform numerous humiliating acts for the entertainment of guards, including stripping nude and pretending to have sex . . . being forced to gulp a super-hot [sauce] . . . and slather it on their testicles,” among other indignities. The warden of the prison and a correctional officer have been placed on paid leave while the SBI investigates.

In other news:

  1. Raleigh lawyer James Crouch has been sentenced to at least a year in prison as a result of backdating documents in DWI cases. The News and Observer has the story here. It isn’t the first DWI document tampering scheme in recent years, but here’s hoping that it is the last.
  2. Marijuana use is now legal under state law in Colorado and Washington, and recent polling data, discussed here and here, shows a significant increase in the number of Americans across the country who support legalization. In some polls, legalization has majority support, and the margin is quite large among younger people. Expect more legal changes in this area.
  3. I noted last week that North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson was retiring, and that Governor Perdue was likely to appoint a successor without consulting the judicial nominating commission she recently created. The News and Observer reports here that the Governor, citing time constraints, has signed a new executive order that “essentially rescinds a previous executive order that required an independent nominating commission to recommend candidates for court vacancies.” The Governor did “urge future governors to use the commission.”
  4. Criminal cases often involve mental health issues, and the de facto catalog of mental health disorders and diagnostic criteria is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, produced by the American Psychiatric Association. As the Wall Street Journal observes here, a new edition (the first full revision since 1994) is about to be released. Some critics contend that the revisions will medicalize behavioral problems and will result in a massive increase in diagnoses. As it relates to criminal law, the revisions are likely to be more warmly received by the defense community than by prosecutors.
  5. Finally, two stories that, while serious in their own ways, nonetheless made me crack a smile. This one notes that a young woman “post[ed] a video to YouTube in which . . . [she] bragged about stealing a car and robbing a bank, even flashing the cash to prove it.” She titled the video Chick Bank Robber and wore the same clothes she wore while robbing the bank, as reflected on the bank’s surveillance video. You’ll never guess what happened as a result! And this one is about a new meaning for the term “committed defense counsel.” It concerns a lawyer who filed an appellate brief from a Texas mental hospital. The attorney had been involuntarily confined since being found incompetent to stand trial on charges that she had shot at a census worker. The appellate court expressed skepticism that a person not competent to represent herself was an appropriate representative for others.
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