News Roundup

This will be the last blog post of 2014. It is also a full and interesting post — if I do say so myself — as it has been quite a busy news week, from the Supreme Court on down.

Supreme Court to settle Miller retroactivity. The high court granted review this week in a case that will determine whether Miller v. Alabama applies retroactively. Recall that Miller is the case holding that mandatory life without parole sentences for juvenile offenders violate the Eighth Amendment, and that the retroactivity of Miller is undecided in North Carolina and the subject of a split of authority nationally. Sentencing Law & Policy has the story here.

Nebraska and Oklahoma sue Colorado over marijuana legalization. In a rare case invoking the Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction, Nebraska and Oklahoma have sued Colorado over the latter’s legalization of marijuana. Nebraska and Oklahoma assert that marijuana legalization is contrary to federal law and policy and that legalization in Colorado has led to increased drug use by Nebraska and Oklahoma residents who live near the Colorado line. The Denver Post reports here.

Year end death penalty numbers. It isn’t quite the end of the year, but the Death Penalty Information Center has nonetheless issued this year-end report. The figures getting the most media attention are: 35 executions, the lowest number since 1994; and 72 death sentences, the fewest since the modern death penalty system arose in the mid-1970s. There are many possible reasons for the decline in death sentences, including a falling murder rate, prosecutors’ reluctance to seek the death penalty given the costs of capital cases (on that point, see this story at the Marshall Project), better representation for defendants, and jurors’ concerns about the death penalty. The decline in executions may be due to those factors and to litigation over lethal injection and the unavailability of drugs required for the procedure.

North Carolina bill to ban racial profiling. According to this News and Observer story, Representative Rodney Moore plans to introduce a bill next year that would “prohibit, or reaffirm existing prohibitions on, the practice of discriminatory profiling by any law enforcement officer or agency as it relates to race, national origin or sexual orientation,” would “require officer training on the topic,” and would “set up local ‘citizen review boards’ that could render decisions as to how agencies or governments should punish offending officers.”

Court system scrimps to pay jurors. This Charlotte Observer story reports that the court system will run out of money to pay jurors in the spring. To make it through the rest of the fiscal year, the Administrative Office of the Courts “has ordered a 30-day hiring freeze and launched a statewide plan to lower the pay grade of all new employees.” The story chronicles other funding deficiencies the court system faces, including a lack of money for court reporters and a lack of funds to develop a modern electronic filing system. Here’s hoping that Santa puts something for the courts under the tree.

Updates to School of Government publications. Two free updates to the 2013 Punishment Chart for North Carolina Crimes and Motor Vehicle Offenses are now available:

These would make great stocking stuffers for kids of all ages!

Happy holidays to all. Finally, thank you for reading, commenting on, disagreeing with, agreeing with, suggesting topics for, and generally engaging with the blog again this year. We are now thousands of posts and millions of hits into what was once just a new faculty member’s experiment but now feels like a significant School of Government product. Thanks to my colleagues for contributing to the blog, and thanks to all of you who work in the criminal justice system and strive to make it better and fairer for everyone. Enjoy your holidays and a break from the blog. We’ll be back on Monday, January 5, 2015.

4 thoughts on “News Roundup”

  1. Jeff, I am retiring 1/1/15 and want to say I have benefitted from and enjoyed so many of your posts. In talking about Miller issues, it would be helpful if you note that, for as long as parole was effective in North Carolina, there was no such thing as life without parole for juveniles–or anyone, for that matter. Life sentences always included parole after service of a specified number of years. Sometimes it was 10 years; sometimes it was 20.

    • Good enjoy yourself. The NC Attorney General Office did no justice to the So called 80 Year Life sentence Inmates that you so vigoriously fought against and openingly opposed. Causing many of the men to now be in prison and have no means of release, as they have been placed on Life without Parole. Knowing that the Old G. S. 14-2 meant exactly what it read.


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