News Roundup

A big case was argued this week before the United States Supreme Court. You’ve probably been following it, right?

Okay, most Americans are following the same-sex marriage case, Obergefell v. Hodges. But many of us with an interest in criminal law are also following Glossip v. Gross, a case about the constitutionality of the lethal injection protocol used in Oklahoma. SCOTUSblog’s coverage of the argument is here. Things apparently got testy. During the argument, some of the Court’s conservative Justices questioned whether the “abolitionist movement” was waging “what amounts to a guerrilla war [of unending litigation] against the death penalty,” while one of the liberal Justices suggested that lethal injection could involve “the feeling of being burned alive.”

In a related item, the News and Observer reports here that the General Assembly is considering a bill “that its sponsor says could revive executions of death row inmates in North Carolina.” The bill is HB 774; it has passed the House and has moved to the Senate. My understanding is that the ongoing litigation over the now-repealed Racial Justice Act and state and federal litigation over the state’s lethal injection protocol would continue to stand in the way of immediate executions even if the bill were to pass, but I may not be completely up to date.

In other news:

Violent crime up in Charlotte. The Charlotte Observer reports here that “[o]verall, violent crimes in the year’s first quarter are 21 percent higher than the same period in 2014. Nearly every category of violent crimes saw an increase over the first quarter of 2014,” with “[h]omicides . . . up by 80 percent, rapes by 34 percent, aggravated assaults by 33 percent and burglaries by 3 percent.” Regular readers know that I tend to be skeptical of this type of report, because it captures a small time period and because some of the percentages are based on very low numbers of incidents. Still, it’s certainly not good news.

Presidential candidates on criminal justice. Thanks to Sentencing Law and Policy, I became aware of this publication by the Brennan Center, which contains several prominent politicians’ perspectives on criminal justice. Among the authors are declared or potential presidential candidates Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Martin O’Malley, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio. Former President Bill Clinton wrote the foreword, so it’s a pretty potent roster of contributors.

ACLU releases app to record law enforcement. Appleinsider notes here that “the American Civil Liberties Union of California on Thursday launched a smartphone app that lets users securely document law enforcement encounters.” The app claims to improve on just using your iPhone’s camera in a few ways, including automatically uploading the video to the cloud (so that if something happens to your phone, the video is not lost) and notifying other app users nearby to be on the alert (to crowdsource more video).

Two tidbits. Finally, two items that readers called to my attention. In Finland, a wealthy businessman was just fined $58,000 for going 64 m.p.h. in a 50 m.p.h. zone. He’s not happy, according to the New York Times, with the Scandanavian practice of basing fines on the income of the person being fined. Second, a major trial regarding a programmer’s alleged theft of code from Goldman Sachs teetered on the brink of mistrial this week when one juror accused another of poisoning an avocado on her sandwich. The judge found that nothing untoward had occurred but dismissed both jurors. Honestly, even without poisoning, avocados can get pretty nasty pretty fast, especially sitting in a warm, stagnant jury room.

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