News Roundup

Considering how close we are to the holidays, there’s been a surprising amount of activity in the criminal law world lately. Stories of interest include the following:

1. The Bowden saga continues, but appears to be headed for a decisive conclusion: the North Carolina Supreme Court has agreed to review, on an expedited basis, the issue of whether certain inmates sentenced to life imprisonment in the 1970s are eligible for release because of good time credits. The News and Observer’s story is here.

2. Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour declared portions of G.S. 14-208.18, which prohibits sex offenders from being on, or within 300 feet of, certain premises, to be unconstitutionally vague and overbroad. The News and Observer’s story is here, and our own Jamie Markham’s attempt to set the reporter straight on the scope of the law is reported here. (As an aside, I’m not sure that the latter item really conveys Jamie’s point very well. Mainly, I believe that he’s pointing out (1) that the statute applies only to the subset of sex offenders described in G.S. 14-208.18(c), and (2) that the statute doesn’t preclude those offenders from going within 300 feet of places intended for the use, care, or supervision of minors unless they are “located on premises that are not” so intended. In other words, a covered offender can walk right past a stand-alone daycare, but can’t go within 300 feet of the childcare facility in an Ikea store.)

3. The FBI reports that the rate of violent crime fell in the first half of 2009, on the heels of declines in 2007 and 2008. The decline surprised some observers, who expected a rise in crime with the economic downturn. Kent Scheidegger at the Crime and Consequences blog doesn’t think it should be surprising, though. The pithy one-line conclusion to his longer post: “People do not commit rape and murder because they are in financial need; they do it because they are evil.”

4. Another significant recent story also has a statistical connection: the Death Penalty Information Center released its year-end report, which notes that 2009 saw “the fewest death sentences since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.” Executions, on the other hand, were actually up from 2008.

5. Other stories that may be of interest include this one about the confirmation hearings of soon-to-be Fourth Circuit Judges Wynn and Diaz (spoiler: they went very smoothly), this one about the gruesome maiming sentence recently handed down by a Pakistani court in response to a vicious attack on a woman who rejected a would-be suitor, and this one about former Duke law professor Erwin Chemerinsky and his new law school at the University of California at Irvine. Amazingly, even though Irvine’s law school is only a year old and is not yet accredited, it is the nation’s most selective law school — free tuition seems to have something to do with that.

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