News Roundup

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Although others may be distracted by tonight’s Duke-UNC basketball game, we at the School of Government remain laser-focused on emerging criminal law issues. And several interesting issues have been in the news lately:

1. The News and Observer reports today on the Wake County hearing concerning Greg Taylor. Taylor was convicted of murder, but the Innocence Inquiry Commission believes that there is enough evidence of his innocence that a court should consider whether to release him; prosecutors involved in the case oppose Taylor’s release. For those not familiar with the work of the Commission, it is authorized and regulated by G.S. 15A-1460 et seq., and its website is here.

2. The New York Times recently ran this story about a jailhouse lawyer who did what most lawyers never do: convince the Supreme Court to grant a prisoner petition for a writ of certiorari. And he did it twice. Now he’s out of prison, gainfully employed, and likely headed to law school.

3. I’ve blogged previously about some of the sentencing issues in child pornography cases. An interesting issue that has been raised in several federal courts is whether defendants convicted of possession of child pornography should be required to pay restitution to the children who were abused to make the images that the defendants possessed. That topic is covered nicely by this New York Times story. Time also recently jumped into the sex offender fray, with this article about the well-known sex offender colony under a Miami bridge, and local efforts to soften the residency restrictions that have contributed to the colony’s existence.

4. Finally, for readers who are lawyers or who are thinking about going to law school, Above the Law has this post on the starting salary that a lawyer needs to make in order for law school to be a rational investment of time and money. The conclusion is at least $65,000, if not more. In North Carolina, most new ADA’s and public defenders make barely half that. Of course, for many folks on both sides, criminal law is a calling, not just a profession.

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5 comments on “News Roundup

  1. “…the Innocence Inquiry Commission believes that he is innocent and has asked a court to release him[.]”

    Really?

    The Innocence Inquiry Commission referred Mr. Taylor’s case to the three-judge panel because they determined that there was “sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review.” The Commission did not make any determination that he was, in fact, innocent, nor did the Commission ask a court to release him.

    This is extremely sloppy and paints the prosecutors opposing Mr. Taylor’s bid for a new trial in a HORRIBLE light. I hope you will append a correction to this section of your otherwise well-written post.

  2. I’ve amended the post slightly in response to your comment, although I don’t think that the original language painted anyone in a negative light. To be clear, I don’t know enough about this case to have an opinion about the merits. I do think, as a practical matter, the Commission’s decision to refer this case to court indicates the Commission’s view of the matter, especially given that the standard of proof in court is clear and convincing evidence of innocence.

  3. Jeff, the new language is correct and appropriate. Thanks for the change.

    Having said that, you’re wrong about the legal standard for the Commission’s decision to refer a case to the three-judge panel. Pursuant to the statute (15A-1468) and the Commission’s rules and procedures, the Commission’s standard is “sufficient evidence of factual innocence to merit judicial review.” I believe you’re confusing the legal standard which the Commission needs to refer a case to the three-judge panel with the standard by which a defendant appearing before the three-judge panel must meet in order to grant the defendant relief, which is “clear and convincing evidence of the convicted person’s innocence.” (15A-1469(h))

    I don’t think this is splitting hairs. Your original post (and now your follow-up comment here) suggests that there’s been some kind of finding of innocence in this case by the Commission. That is absolutely untrue.

  4. Just chiming back in to say that I re-read your comment and now see that you did say that the standard of proof “in court” was clear and convincing evidence of innocence, so my arrogant assumption that you were confusing the two standards of review is wrong.

    But I do still think that it’s a distinction worth a difference. The Commission merely said that there was enough evidence to warrant judicial review and in no way expressed a position on the innocence of Mr. Taylor; such a determination would exceed the Commission’s authority. Your description suggests that, if the Commission referred the case to the three-judge panel, they must think Mr. Taylor is innocent (“the Commission’s decision to refer this case to court indicates the Commission’s view of the matter”), and the facts simply don’t support that at all.

  5. Ah, the, “Innocence Inquiry Commission.” Someone remind me again what the purpose of a jury trial is anymore in this state…

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