News Roundup

The front page of the News and Observer today reports that Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer May-Parker has been nominated by President Obama to serve as a federal district judge in the Eastern District of North Carolina. Jennifer was one of the prosecutors I faced in my first federal jury trial. She is smart, professional, level-headed, and will make an excellent judge. Here’s hoping for a speedy confirmation.

In other news:

1. The Racial Justice Act officially has been repealed. Signing the repeal, Governor McCrory described the RJA as “seriously flawed.” The bill that contains the repeal makes several other changes intended to allow executions to resume. I doubt that will happen anytime soon, for reasons I may detail in a future post.

2. One person who needn’t worry about the resumption of executions is Patricia Jennings, who was just spared the death penalty and resentenced to life in prison based on a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel. She was on death row for 23 years, convicted of killing her elderly husband, after a trial apparently so full of salacious details that the Jodi Arias case seems tame by comparison.

3. A bit of good news from the state crime lab: it just announced that it has met international standard ISO 17025, “which provides a global basis for laboratory accreditation in management and technical requirements.” The lab also noted in a press release that it remains “accredited by the nation’s largest accrediting group, American Society of Crime Lab Director Lab Accreditation Board (ASCLD-LAB) and is seeking to become the only crime lab in the country to be ISO accredited by two outside organizations.”

4. There were more Moral Monday arrests at the General Assembly this week, and an interesting side controversy sprouted. The conservative Civitas Institute has published online a list of the arrestees, together with information about each one such as voter registration, home address, and employer, most of which was probably obtained from paperwork associated with their arrests. Duke Law professor – and arrestee – Jed Purdy writes in the Huffington Post that the project hearkens back to the “1950s, blacklists, and loyalty oaths.” The Independent Weekly responded by publishing some publicly available information about people associated with Civitas. I’m interested in readers’ thoughts about this. One the one hand, the project isn’t my cup of tea. It reminds me of The Slammer. The “Pick the Protestor Game” in particular is undignified. On the other hand, there’s some interesting aggregate information on the site, and there’s no personal information there that would be hard to find elsewhere. As the Supreme Court has recently emphasized, a person does lose some privacy when he or she is arrested.

5. A bill to allow the speed limit on some highways to increase to 75 was racing through the General Assembly until the House hit the brakes yesterday. The bill has been sent back to committee for further review.

6. The Supreme Court ruled in Alleyene v. United States that any fact that increases a defendant’s mandatory minimum sentence must be submitted to the jury and proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The decision reverses Harris v. United States, 536 U.S. 545 (2002), decided just eleven years ago. I don’t know that there’s a huge immediate impact in the North Carolina courts, but Greensboro Assistant Federal Public Defender Bill Ingram argued Harris, so this is a bit of belated vindication for him.

7. Finally, my favorite story of the week. The Henderson County courthouse had a rodent problem, until courthouse staff turned loose Mr. Jingles, a cat from the animal shelter. He decimated the rat population. The county manager reports, “He’s the best employee I’ve got, and I don’t have to pay his health insurance.” Look, stiffing him on benefits is one thing, but can’t you at least give him a better nickname? He is a fearsome predator, after all. Mr. Jingles, sheesh.

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