News Roundup

I’m rounding up the news today on the theory that for most people, today is the last work day of the week. I know it is for me. Here are some of the week’s top stories:

90-96 program discretionary again. Jamie noted last week that H 641 was “poised to become law,” and indeed, it has become law. Now known as S.L. 2013-210, it makes the conditional discharge program in G.S. 90-96(a), which has been mandatory since the passage of the Justice Reinvestment Act, discretionary again for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2013. The amended statute provides that first-time drug possession offenders shall be placed in the program “unless the court determines with a written finding, and with the agreement of the District Attorney, that the offender is inappropriate for a conditional discharge for factors related to the offense.” I can imagine future litigation about what is and is not a “factor[] related to the offense.”

High profile trial update. The George Zimmerman trial in Florida is rolling along, but the high profile trial news that struck me this week concerns James Holmes, the alleged Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooter. His trial isn’t scheduled until next February, but according to CNN, the judge has already announced that he will summon 5,000 people for jury service. Seriously? Remember, the goal isn’t to find Colorado residents who have never heard of the crime or the defendant. It is to find Colorado residents who can set aside what they’ve read and heard and decide the case on the evidence before them. Surely 5,000 prospective jurors aren’t needed for that.

Last words. The New York Times recently ran a story about the last words spoken by Texas death row inmates about to be executed. The Texas prison system transcribes the remarks and posts them online, and they’re a mishmash of absurdity, poignancy, and platitudes. The story’s short and worth a read.

SCOTUS statistical report. I love statistics, and those who share my enthusiasm for all things quantitative will enjoy the OT2012 statistical report compiled by SCOTUSblog. Highlights include the pairs of Justices who agreed with one another most (Ginsburg and Kagan) and least (Ginsburg and Alito); the bimodal distribution of opinions (lots of 9-0 cases and 5-4 cases, not much in between); and the Justice who is most often in the majority (hint: rhymes with “Schmennedy”).

Lie detectors for sex offenders. Great Britain is rolling out a program that this Guardian article describes as “US-style mandatory polygraph tests for serious sex offenders.” I’m not aware of such a program actually existing in the United States, but perhaps Edward Snowden has leaked some information to the Guardian about it and it will be revealed in due course. In any event, the rollout follows a successful pilot program during which polygraphed offenders “were twice as likely to tell probation staff they had contacted a victim, entered an exclusion zone or otherwise breached terms of their release” as those not subjected to testing.

Heinous LEGO crime. I am shocked and appalled that several teenagers knocked over and damaged “the largest Lego helicopter in the world, the 100,000-piece Erickson Air-Crane” that was built by an Australian enthusiast over a six-week span. I don’t know what punishment fits such a crime, but I welcome comments and suggestions.

Happy Independence Day to one and all, and enjoy the long weekend.

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