News Roundup

This week, the General Assembly ratified SB 117, or Lily’s Law, which adds the following provision to the murder statute, G.S. 14-17: “For the purposes of this section, it shall constitute murder where a child is born alive but dies as a result of injuries inflicted prior to the child being born alive.” The bill awaits the Governor’s signature. WRAL reports that the bill is “named after . . . the daughter of Danna Fitzgerald . . . [who] was 27 weeks pregnant when her then-estranged husband shot her in the abdomen.” The child was delivered by Caesarian section and lived for several weeks before dying of complications arising from the shooting. In State v. Broom, the court of appeals rejected the husband’s argument that “that [Lily] cannot be the subject of a first-degree murder charge because she had not been born at the time Danna was shot.” The court cited the common law “born alive rule,” discussed in State v. Beale, 324 N.C. 87 (1989). In light of Beale and Broom, Lily’s Law appears to codify existing law. News reports suggest that its passage was emotionally significant to Ms. Fitzgerald. Here’s hoping that it brings her some small measure of comfort or peace.

In other news:

1. New law school rankings. Above the Law, a website for lawyers and law students, has compiled its own rankings as alternatives to the U.S. News and World Report rankings that dominate the debate. The new rankings focus more on outputs (like employment numbers) than on inputs (such as average undergraduate GPA) and so may be more of more practical significance than the U.S. News version. The results are interesting. Yale is number one in both rankings, but North Carolina law schools generally do better under the Above the Law formula. Duke rises to number six, UNC is 24th, and Wake Forest is 30th. Read more here.

2. Tsarnaev death penalty debate. Assuming that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is convicted of death-eligible federal offenses, should he get the death penalty? Some might say it’s too soon to judge, but former federal prosecutor Bill Otis, argues that at a minimum, it should be considered because the crime was “unbelievably sinister, cruel and sadistic; the victims, including an eight year-old, numerous; the perpetrator unrepentant; and his guilt not open to question.” Alan Dershowitz thinks that imposing the death penalty would make Tsarnaev a martyr. A video debate between Otis and Dershowitz on the subject is here.

3. Video gambling. No, it’s not another sweepstakes case. This Wired magazine article explores whether it is a federal crime to win half a million dollars by exploiting a software glitch in a video poker machine. The federal government says it’s hacking, while the defendants’ lawyer says that the defendants just “push[ed] a sequence of buttons that they were legally entitled to push.”

4. Seersucker. Finally, a reader pointed me to this state legislative tracker, which summarizes a recent development in Missouri as follows: “Sen. Ryan McKenna (D) offered a hand-written amendment to a higher education funding bill that would have banned anyone over the age of eight from wearing seersucker suits in Missouri. ‘Any person living in this state aged 8 and under may wear seersucker suits at their leisure. Any person over the age of 8 living in this state may not wear seersucker suits because adults look ridiculous in seersucker suits,’ read the amendment, which was eventually withdrawn. McKenna admitted that ‘[i]t probably wasn’t germane to the bill. It was all in jest anyway.’”

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