News Roundup

All eyes are on Charlotte this week. Former CMPD officer Randall “Wes” Kerrick is on trial for voluntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting of Jonathan Ferrell. I have not followed the trial closely but some have suggested that the evidence came in more favorable to the defense than was generally expected pretrial. The jury has now deliberated for more than two full days without reaching a verdict. However, no Allen charge has yet been given. The Charlotte Observer has a useful Q-and-A about the case and the prospects for a verdict here. If the jury hangs, the next question would be whether the State would retry Mr. Kerrick.

In other news:

New York Times criticizes money bail. The New York Times magazine has a story here entitled The Bail Trap. The thesis is that the use of money bail results in poor people being incarcerated pretrial for minor crimes, which puts pressure on them to plead guilty even when they have valid defenses. The idea is familiar but some of the individual profiles in the story are compelling.

Subway pitchman to plead guilty to sex crimes under what some view as a sweetheart deal. Jared Fogle, who lost lots of weight eating Subway sandwiches and made lots of money talking about it, has agreed to plead guilty in federal court “to possessing and distributing child porn, and to traveling across state lines to have sex with at least two teenage girls,” according to CNN. The plea agreement apparently calls for a minimum sentence of 5 years, while the government has agreed not to ask for more than 12.5 years. Given the extremely long sentences often imposed in federal court on child pornography offenders who have never had sexual contact with children, many are wondering whether Fogle has received “celebrity justice.” Professor Doug Berman has a post on point at Sentencing Law & Policy.

Police search commune for marijuana, but find only blackberries and tomatillos. Commune sues police. Two years ago, police in Arlington, Texas, obtained and executed a search warrant for marijuana at the Garden of Eden compound, a four-acre residential community where residents “live with minimal electricity, drink from a well, use composting outhouses, grow all of their food and spend most of their time farming,” according to the Houston Chronicle. After a day-long search, the officers found no controlled substances but apparently did locate okra, blackberries, and tomatillos, among other items of produce. (Huffington Post.) Now the commune is striking back. It has filed a lawsuit arguing that the warrant was unsupported by probable cause and that the police should pay damages and receive remedial search and seizure training.

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