News Roundup

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The biggest news of the week may be that Frank Perry, the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety, has authorized a one-drug protocol for lethal injection, replacing the three-drug “cocktail” system previously in effect. WRAL has the AP story here. The story states that the new protocol will “slightly loosen the legal knot that’s delayed carrying out capital punishment for years.” I plan to do a post in the near future about the status of the various threads in that knot, but it is debatable whether the new protocol will loosen the knot or engender additional legal challenges that tighten it.

In other news:

  1. Medical examiner loses job. Dr. Clay Nichols, the deputy chief medical examiner, has been “separated” from his job. The News and Observer has a somewhat vague story here, asserting that “the State Bureau of Investigation has been investigating Nichols and has been examining his autopsy of Terrell Boykin, a 19-year-old Cumberland County man who was shot to death in 2011,” and that “Orange County District Attorney Jim Woodall said he expects to decide soon whether to file criminal charges.” Because Dr. Nichols performed several hundred autopsies each year, his departure could impact many pending cases – including a Durham trial set for next week involving the accuser in the Duke lacrosse case.
  2. Traffic stop doesn’t end well. The Huffington Post has a story here that begins: “A New Mexico man is alleging abuse after authorities conducted three enemas, a colonoscopy, an X-ray and several cavity searches on him simply because he appeared to clench his buttocks [during a traffic stop, leading the police to suspect he was concealing drugs in his rectum].” That doesn’t sound so good, and the story has received considerable attention on the internet. A mildly skeptical analysis of the prevailing narrative from Professor Orin Kerr appears here.
  3. Precursor to the BATmobile? Gizmodo has a story here about a California city’s system for dealing with traffic violations in the 1920s. Dubbed “court-a-la-carte,” it worked as follows: “[T]he judge and bailiff together with table, chair, and lawbooks, were installed in the back of a light truck which ‘parked unostentatiously near the [traffic] officers’ beat’ and waited for the telltale sound of the siren, signifying that an arrest was about to be made. The truck then rushed to the site of the arrest and confronted the presumably dumfounded driver with the full majesty of the law.” The picture accompanying the article, showing the judge at roadside behind a portable bench, truly is worth a thousand words.
  4. The odd and the interesting. Finally, a couple of tidbits that caught my eye this week. First, a true man bites dog story from California, where a suspect allegedly bit a police dog while resisting arrest. (I bet the dog returned the favor.) The suspect also stabbed himself repeatedly, but both man and dog are expected to recover. Meanwhile, a Texas prosecutor “shot out a window in the district attorney’s offices . . . while admiring a colleague’s new gun.” The prosecutor says that he was being “extremely safe,” but the boss isn’t too happy.
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