News Roundup

Durham County Superior Court Judge Elaine Bushfan, hearing cases in Alamance County, reversed her own judgments in five cases this week, saying that the Alamance County District Attorney’s office was too “harsh,” and that she would no longer hear criminal cases in Alamance County. Three of the five cases were habitual felon prosecutions. District Attorney Pat Nadolski told the media that his office aggressively prosecutes priority cases including violent crimes, habitual felons, and drug cases dealers. [Editor’s note: I updated the post in response to a request for greater precision regarding the language used in Mr. Nadolski’s statement.] The Greensboro News and Record story is here. A more detailed story from the Burlington Times-News, which includes a profile of each of the five cases in question, is here. A sense of the local reaction to the case may perhaps be gleaned from the comments on the latter story.

In other news:

  1. Ervin to run again. Court of Appeals Judge Sam Ervin, who narrowly lost a bid for Supreme Court Justice Paul Newby’s seat in the last election, is again running for the high court. This time, he will be taking on colleague Bob Hunter in a race for the seat to be vacated by Justice Mark Martin, who is planning to run for Chief Justice Parker’s seat as she retires. Got all that? The Greensboro News and Record has the basics here.
  2. Fourth Circuit criticizes United States Attorney’s Office. The News and Observer ran this story this week, which begins: “In a rare rebuke, the . . . Fourth Circuit . . . has alerted the U.S. Attorney General to what the court describes as a troubling pattern by federal prosecutors of withholding evidence from defendants in North Carolina’s Eastern District.” The court identified three cases over the past several years in which it had found discovery problems. Both former United States Attorney (and current member of Congress) George Holding, and current United States Attorney Thomas Walker stated generally that they took the court’s comments and the Government’s discovery obligations seriously.
  3. Zimmerman out to recoup costs. CNN reports here that attorneys for the recently acquitted George Zimmerman “plan to ask the state to reimburse Zimmerman for at least $200,000 of expenses incurred during his trial,” under a Florida law that “an acquitted defendant cannot be held liable for court costs or any charges while detained in custody, as long as a clerk or judge consents to the refund.” Attorneys’ fees can’t be recovered, but expert witness fees, travel expenses, and certain other costs can be. As a sidebar, it appears that Zimmerman’s lawyers have been paid in publicity nothing so far for their work on the case.
  4. New York City’s jails must be really nice. The New York Times reports here that it costs $168,000 per year to keep an inmate in jail in New York City. They must have some nice facilities! People are even sneaking into the jails there, according to this local story. It reports that a convicted sex offender, using a fake correctional officer ID, “made his way into the Manhattan Detention Center and spent several hours visiting with the inmates,” who he described as nice people who made him feel important.
  5. What’s the difference between a mugger and a lawyer? A mugger only takes most of your money. Or something like that, according to this story about a defense attorney’s closing argument. In a nutshell, the defendant was charged with robbing the victim at knifepoint. The defense seized on the fact that the victim claimed that the defendant took $20 from her, but left her with $10. “What kind of robber only takes two-thirds of your money? Not even a lawyer does that,” the attorney argued. The defendant was quickly acquitted.
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