News Roundup

Is the death penalty dying? It’s a fair question given that the Republican-controlled Nebraska legislature just abolished the punishment over the governor’s veto (the New York Times has the story here), and that yesterday’s ABC News poll reveals a “new low” in national support for the death penalty (albeit only over a time horizon of 15 years). It’s also the question Time magazine asked in this recent feature story. Here’s a related question that I’ll pose to readers: Which will come to North Carolina first, marijuana legalization or the repeal of the death penalty?

In other news:

No override yet of veto of magistrate marriage opt-out. Regular readers know that the General Assembly, in order to accommodate magistrates with religious objections to same-sex marriage, has passed a bill allowing magistrates to opt out of performing marriages at all. Governor McCrory vetoed the bill. The Senate voted to override the bill, but the House hasn’t voted yet, despite having passed the bill originally by a margin great enough to override and having had the matter on the calendar each of the past two days. It seems that some House members are on the fence about whether to override. WNCN reports here.

Chief Justice creates new commission. The North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice, to be exact. The press release is here. The commission has five co-chairs and five focus areas, one of which is “criminal investigation and adjudication.” Exactly what opportunities stakeholders may have to provide input to the commission is not yet clear.

Nationwide crime wave? Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute thinks so. Writing here in the Wall Street Journal, she argues that “[t]he nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over. Gun violence in particular is spiraling upward in cities across America,” including Baltimore, Milwaukee, and St. Louis. She attributes this to “the intense agitation against American police departments over the past nine months.” Crime rates fluctuate quite a bit within individual cities over short periods of time, so I retain a healthy skepticism, but it’s worth keeping an eye on this issue.

Sonia Sotomayor, celebrity Justice. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports here on a UC-Irvine professor’s statistical approach to Supreme Court Justices’ extrajudicial appearances. Justice Sotomayor ranks as the top of the “Celebrity Index.” The Notorious R.B.G. still has the best nickname, though.

Crackdown on “manspreading.” Finally, although the NYPD may be moving away from broken windows policing and stop and frisks, don’t think that you can get away with all minor crimes in the Big Apple. Gothamist reports here about a recent trip to observe criminal court: “police officers had arrested two Latino men on the charge of ‘man spreading’ on the subway, presumably because they were taking up more than one seat and therefore inconveniencing other riders. . . . [T]he judge expressed her skepticism about the charge because of the time of the arrests: ‘12:11AM, I can’t believe there were many people on the subway.’” I can’t wait until we get light rail here in the Triangle so that our courts, too, can address this important issue.

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