News Roundup

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I was busy at the judges’ and prosecutors’ conferences this week, but somehow, the world didn’t stop turning. Among the week’s top stories:

  1. A new edition of the North Carolina Defender Manual, Vol. 1, Pretrial, is now available. Word to the wise: the manual isn’t just useful for defense attorneys. It offers detailed coverage of legal issues that may be of interest to prosecutors, officers, judges, and others. A view-only pdf is available for free here, while a hard copy is available for purchase here. Congratulations to my colleagues John Rubin and Alyson Grine for finishing the new edition.
  2. Does a defense lawyer need to meet his client to provide adequate representation? Speaking of defenders, the state supreme court in New Jersey just issued an interesting opinion, according to this Atlantic article. It begins, “In State v. Terrence Miller, four justices of the state supreme court—over a lone dissent—affirmed the conviction of a man indicted on drug charges who met his lawyer for the first time for a few minutes in a stairwell at the courthouse on the morning of trial. The lawyer had not tried a criminal case in seven years and had been appointed to Miller’s case only four days before trial. He never spoke to any witnesses, or to Miller’s former attorney, or to investigators in the public defender’s office. He didn’t know what his client would say on the witness stand.” The lawyer did move for a continuance, but it was denied. The article goes on to question more generally whether enough is being done to vindicate the right of indigent persons to effective representation.
  3. A majority of Americans support the legalization of marijuana. There’s quite a bit of evidence that we’re reaching some kind of societal tipping point with marijuana but the latest, quite powerful, signal is that 58% of Americans answered yes to the question “Do you think the use of marijuana should be made legal, or not?” See the Gallup poll results here. The question doesn’t say anything about medical vs. recreational marijuana and a more specific question might have generated different results, but the linked page shows how the answer to the question posed has changed over time, and it is striking.
  4. Crime is increasing a bit. No, decreasing. No, actually, increasing a lot. Maybe. Various types of crime rate data have been released recently, with the FBI showing a very small increase in violent crime, and a very small decrease in property crime, while the Bureau of Justice Statistics found double-digit increases in both types of crime. Crime and Consequences has a good discussion of the different methodologies used in each instance here.
  5. More Florida inmates try to use forged documents to procure release. Recall that I blogged about this last week. Then, there were three inmates who had tried the tactic – two had succeeded and one had failed. But word gets around, and a new Fox News report indicates that there have now been seven attempts, three successful. The state is taking action to prevent similar scams in the future.
  6. “Copious amounts of constitutionally protected sodomy are occurring in our great state already.” So says the state’s brief in a recent Georgia appellate case. (Not that Georgia is alone in that department!) If you’re interested, you can read a bit more about the case and the brief here.
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