News Roundup

I am dumbfounded by the rapid pace of criminal law news over the past week or so. Some news items that may be of interest:

1. Unless you’ve sworn off TV, radio, the internet, and all communication with your fellow humans, you probably know that a three-judge panel in Wake County exonerated Greg Taylor this week. The News and Observer story is here; The New York Times story is here; and Sentencing Law and Policy’s blog post is here.

2. The North Carolina Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in the Bowden case, concerning the meaning of a life sentenced imposed during a few years in the 1970. The News and Observer story is here. We’ve followed the story with several posts on this blog; the basic issue is discussed here. As an aside, the United States Supreme Court releases oral argument transcripts the day of the argument — they’re posted here — and many appellate courts now promptly post audio or video recordings of oral arguments. Perhaps our appellate courts could do something similar? Update: a helpful reader pointed out that WRAL TV has a video of the Bowden argument here, for now.

3. Speaking of promptly posting things to the web, the General Assembly’s site has just been updated so that the version of the General Statutes available there is current through the 2009 legislative session.

4. Justice Kennedy gave a speech not long ago in which he argued that prison sentences in America are generally too long. He specifically bemoaned California’s recidivist law, reportedly saying “[t]he three-strikes law[‘s] sponsor is the correctional officers’ union and that is sick.” The New York Times just ran an editorial based on the speech, though Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy thinks that the editorial is “a little off” and “imperfect” for reasons he details in his post.

5. Although Justice Kennedy seems to have plenty of fire for his work, there is increasing speculation that there will be not one (Stevens) but two (Ginsburg) Supreme Court vacancies soon. Let the chatter and idle speculation begin! Oh, wait. It already has.

6. A few miscellaneous items: Arizona’s considering a bill that would prevent courts from considering foreign or religious law. (Not to be outdone, Iowa’s got a bill pending that would prevent courts from considering . . . precedent.) A famous BBC journalist admits killing a former lover, sparking a debate about assisted suicide. And in Kansas, if you draw a gun in self-defense, you’d better use it.

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