News Roundup

The old media motto is “if it bleeds, it leads.” But today, I’m leading with a good news story of danger averted. Dan Hicks, a Raleigh PD officer, talked a man off the edge of a freeway overpass Wednesday night and gave him a hug. Officer Hicks explained to WRAL that the man in question “got a big old Dan Hicks bear hug, whether he wanted it or not. . . . [H]e was not going to be given the opportunity to go over that bridge again. He got to stand there with me for a second and get that hug. Call it tactical, call it compassionate, I think it was probably both.” Well done, Officer Hicks.

In other news:

Baltimore pays Freddie Gray’s family $6.4 million. Staying with police-related news, Baltimore has agreed to head off a civil suit by settling with the family of Freddie Gray, the young man who died in April as a result of injuries sustained while in police custody. The settlement is for $6.4 million, as WRAL notes here. The officers involving in the incident have been charged criminally but have not yet been tried.

Jury recommends death sentence for former head of North Carolina KKK. As the Washington Post reports here, a Kansas jury has recommended a death sentence for Frazier Glenn Miller, a former Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Miller shot and killed three people at or near a Jewish center in Overland Park. He was motivated by anti-Semitism, and at trial, declared himself “proud” of the killings, though none of the three victims turned out to have been Jewish. Miller will formally be sentenced in November. The news stories I’ve seen all refer to the jury’s “recommendation.” I don’t know whether, under Kansas law, such a recommendation is binding on the judge.

WFU law professor: train defenders in plea bargaining. Ron Wright, a professor at Wake Forest University’s law school, has co-authored a new paper arguing that defense attorneys don’t get enough training in negotiation. Such training takes a back seat to trial advocacy even though far more cases are resolved by plea than by trial. The paper’s on SSRN here and is tasty food for thought. I’m pretty sure that a study of prosecutors would reach the same conclusion.

Prosecutor resigns after supervisors recommend reduced sentence for drug dealer who threatened to kill her. This interesting piece in the Carolina Journal begins: “Federal prosecutor Denise Walker, who was forced into hiding for six weeks as a result of a drug dealer’s threats to have her killed, later resigned when her superiors in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Raleigh proposed a lesser sentence for the drug dealer and blocked any mention of his murderous intentions in a pre-sentencing report.” The basis for the recommended reduction was the defendant’s testimony against one of his associates. The sentencing judge rejected the recommendation and imposed a life sentence. It’s worth a read for a bit of an inside look at the world of federal criminal court.

4 thoughts on “News Roundup”

  1. I don’t like the fact that Baltimore (like Charlotte did, also) has already settled a civil claim without having determined the officers’ guilt or innocence in a court of law. From what I’ve read in the news reports Freddie Gray’s cause of death was a result of some sort of sudden change in body direction, in which he would have had to have been upright and standing. I think the coroner’s report theorized he was standing in the vehicle when either it braked or changed directions and he fell and that’s when he sustained the injury because he couldn’t stop himself with his hands, and that’s why the driver is getting the top charge in the incident. In my mind, if he chose to be standing he’s at least partially liable for his own injuries. There were seats he could have taken, and I would have preferred the city wait to settle until the criminal trials were all resolved, it would have been better for the negotiations, and also would have hopefully helped keep people from associating guilt since the city seems to be willing to pay so much money.

    I don’t blame that prosecutor at all for resigning her position. It’s bad enough when prosecutor’s screw over cops on plea deals, but one of their own is amazing. I’ve had ADAs dismiss assault on LEO charges against me and let the offender plea in to just an RDO charge, or simple possession charge, and it’s infuriating when you’ve been injured or threatened to have the prosecutor not want to try a case and go the easy way out. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if I ever had to go into hiding and then the prosecutor wanted to take a lesser charge.

    • Ditto what Christopher said about the prosecutor. When you have a hundred criminal cases on the docket every session I think it is easy to forget that many of the victims are quite invested in whatever reason they are there for, be it a simple assault, trespassing, or something higher up the scale. When YOU are the victim, suddenly you are acutely aware of the “importance” of your case.
      There’s too much backlog to contemplate a scenario where no plea agreements are offered, but a few moments of commiseration, compassion or explanation might go a ways to softening the blow.
      All that said, sometimes you just need to step up and give the defendant his full measure of justice and in the case of the Denise Walker, I don’t care if the defendant knew where Jimmy Hoffa was holing up with the Lindbergh baby. He shouldn’t have gotten any kind of deal.

    • Baltimore and Charlotte had the option of defending officers’ actions at a civil trial. The fact that the cities chose to settle for substantial amounts says something about how they thought things might turn out at trial.

      The issues in criminal and civil cases involving deaths caused by police not precisely aligned and the burdens of proof are different.

  2. Prosecutor Denise Walker was not “screw[ed] over” by her supervisor making an ineffectual recommendation of 30 years in prison for Calderon. Calderon received a life sentence. According to what I’ve read he deserved death, but life in prison is not a slap on the wrist. The ineffectual recommendation for 30 years apparently was given in return for information and possibly testimony useful in catching and convicting other criminals. Additionally, the only quote allegedly from Calderon that even remotely indicates that he so much as thought about killing Walker is “the bitch has me by the balls.” Looks as if that statement was figuratively accurate.

    What is more disturbing is not that her supervisor essentially let Calderon have life in prison rather than seeking a death penalty but that her supervisor and fellow prosecutors were so callous, rude, & unprofessional towards her. Walker said “the first assistant [Bruce] … says, ‘Well, your family is from this area — naming my hometown — surely they all have guns anyway.” She indicated that her colleagues mocked her for her concern about the possible threats on her life. I suspect she resigned more for that asinine treatment from her fellow prosecutors than for the sentencing of Calderon.


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