News Roundup

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There’s been quite a bit of criminal law news this past week:

1. The controversy over the Bowden case and its interpretation of life sentences continues. Governor Perdue has a new legal argument for not releasing the inmates who appear to be affected by the ruling, and the inmates are planning to test that argument in court. The News and Observer’s latest story is here.

2. Cindy Adcock, a professor at Charlotte School of Law, has a new article on SSRN that’s getting some attention. A summary of the article and a link to it are available here; the gist is that if and when all the issues surrounding North Carolina’s execution protocol are resolved, there will be an unprecedented wave of executions that will tax Governor Perdue’s clemency process. My impression is that she’s right that the de facto moratorium over the past few years has resulted in there being a large “backlog” of death row inmates who have completed post-conviction review and are awaiting execution dates — but I wonder if litigation under the new Racial Justice Act will move some of those cases out of the queue.

3. Also in the world of capital punishment: in the wake of the failed exectution of Romell Broom, Ohio has become the first state to adopt a single-drug execution protocol — inmates will be put to death by a massive overdose of anesthetic. Some death penalty critics have argued that such a protocol is more humane than using the three-drug cocktail that Ohio, like every other death penalty state, previously used. A Cleveland Plain Dealer article on this issue is here. (Hat tip: Sentencing Law & Policy.) The first inmate scheduled to die by the new protocol — not Mr. Broom — objects to what he argues is human experimentation.

4. New research suggests that antisocial tendencies may be identifiable in children as young as three, according to this Reuters article. So, if a defendant can show that his antisocial traits are hardwired, is that a mitigating factor on the theory that the defendant is less responsible for his crimes? Or an aggravating factor, on the theory that the defendant is more likely to be incorrigible? According to an Italian court, the former: as reported in this article, the court “cut the sentence given to a convicted murderer by a year because he has genes linked to violent behaviour — the first time that behavioural genetics has affected a sentence passed by a European court.” Does this seem like a viable argument in North Carolina?

5. Finally, a side benefit to social networking: it can give you an alibi when you’re wrongly accused of a crime.

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