News Roundup

This week, the state supreme court heard oral arguments on the retroactivity of Miller v. Alabama, the United States Supreme Court case that ruled that juvenile murderers could not automatically be sentenced to life without parole. WUNC ran a short piece on the issue, consisting mainly of an interesting interview with an attorney from North Carolina Prisoner Legal Services. The piece is available here. In other news:

Death penalty under review. The recent botched execution in Oklahoma has prompted President Obama to order a review of death penalty procedures, according to this New York Times article. Serendipitously, the Constitution Project just issued this 200-plus-page report by a group of high-profile supporters and opponents of the death penalty, which suggests specific reforms to the administration of capital punishment. I’ve only started to review it myself, but it appears to be a thoughtful, balanced, and serious proposal.

Criminal law and technology news. Apple just posted new guidelines for law enforcement access to user data, as noted here on CNET. Meanwhile, as Supreme Court continues to consider whether cell phones may be searched incident to arrest, Ars Technica observes that the Court hasn’t “gotten to email yet” and isn’t the most tech-savvy bunch. I’m sure there’s a very efficient system of telegraph communications between the Justices’ chambers, but still, I think an IT upgrade might be in order.

You can’t say that on a license plate! Oops, actually, you can. A New Hampshire resident applied for a vanity license plate reading COPSLIE. The DMV rejected it as “offensive to good taste,” but the state’s supreme court ruled that the plate should issue, reasoning that the “good taste” standard is too vague and infringes the First Amendment. The Volokh Conspiracy has the story here. If this were the kind of blog that had t-shirts, I would offer a t-shirt to the best proposed vanity plate disparaging lawyers.

A strange wind is blowing. It starts in Texas, where CNN reports reports that a man facing up to 20 years in prison for a conviction of statutory rape after having sex with a 14-year-old girl was sentenced to probation and to 250 hours of community service in a rape crisis center. In a not at all surprising twist, the crisis center subsequently informed the judge that convicted rapists aren’t welcome there. The wind then blew into Detroit, where a 90-year-old man was sentenced to three years for being a drug mule. He reportedly earned more than $1 million transporting over a ton of cocaine to Michigan. Worried about the future of Social Security, perhaps.

Self-help remedy for lost iPhones. Finally, the New York Times has this story about people using Find My iPhone to track down and confront phone thieves. “Some have been successful,” notes a prosecutor interviewed about the phenomenon, “and some have gotten hurt.” I don’t know if it’s a wise course of action, but I admire the courage involved.

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