News Roundup

The North Carolina Bar Association’s Criminal Justice Section had its annual awards dinner last night. As always, it was an inspiration. Senior Deputy Attorney General Jim Coman received the Peter Gilchrist award as an outstanding career prosecutor, and Guilford County Public Defender Fred Lind received the Wade Smith Award as an outstanding career defense attorney. There was a large and boisterous crowd. Fred and Jim were both young lawyers in Greensboro a few decades back, so there was a great deal of reminiscing about the good old days. Fred once tried four jury trials in a single week, while Jim’s departure from the local district attorney’s office prompted a jubilant defense bar to give him a farewell gift. Both Fred and Jim have far exceeded the 200 jury trial mark in their careers. Congratulations to both.

In other news:

1. Courthouse expansion in Buncombe County. The Asheville Citizen-Times reports here on the opening of the Buncombe County courthouse annex. It looks great and has room for future growth.

2. Georgia v. Randolph revisited, and perhaps to be reconsidered. The United States Supreme Court heard oral argument this week in Fernandez v. California, which presents the following question: “Whether, under Georgia v. Randolph, a defendant must be personally present and objecting when police officers ask a co-tenant for consent to conduct a warrantless search or whether a defendant’s previously stated objection, while physically present, to a warrantless search is a continuing assertion of 4th Amendment rights which cannot be overridden by a co-tenant.” Professor Orin Kerr, at the Volokh Conspiracy here and here, thinks the prosecution may have the votes to narrow Randolph, or perhaps even reverse it.

3. ACLU on LWOP for nonviolent offenses. The ACLU recently released an extensive report entitled A Living Death: Life without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses. It’s available here. The website begins: “For 3,278 people, it was nonviolent offenses like stealing a $159 jacket or serving as a middleman in the sale of $10 of marijuana. An estimated 65% of them are Black. Many of them were struggling with mental illness, drug dependency or financial desperation when they committed their crimes. None of them will ever come home to their parents and children. And taxpayers are spending billions to keep them behind bars.” Skimming the report, it appears that most of the individuals in question are serving life in federal prison for drug distribution offenses. There’s lots of interesting and provocative material in the report, and probably some that could be interpreted differently than the ACLU does, but it’s definitely worth a gander.

4. Some people really don’t like music. Finally, in possibly the weirdest story ever featured on this blog, a young woman in Spain is facing seven years in prison for practicing the piano in her own home, during the daytime, at a volume level below that of ordinary conversation. The AP has the story here. The best I could do domestically was this story about robot deer being used by police in Florida to tempt illegal hunters.

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