A divided North Carolina Supreme Court decided State v. Packingham last Friday, upholding the statutory ban on registered sex offenders using social networking websites that allow minors to join. G.S. 14-202.5. The defendant argued that the statute violated his First Amendment rights, but the court ruled that the statute targets conduct, not speech, and that any incidental burden on speech is justifiable. A law professor’s skeptical analysis of the decision is here. Another professor’s suggestion that the case may merit review by the United States Supreme Court is here.
In other news:
Eight year old charged with murder. This local story reports on a sad Alabama case in which “[a]n 8-year-old Birmingham boy [has been] charged with murder in the beating death of a toddler girl left in his care.” It seems that such a case could arise in North Carolina. “Under the common law doctrine of doli incapax, children below the age of seven are conclusively presumed to be incapable of committing a crime [while] . . . children between the ages of seven and fourteen are also presumed incapable of committing a crime but the presumption may be rebutted by proof that the child is capable of discerning between good and evil.” State v. Green, 124 N.C. App. 269 (1996) (noting that the enactment of the juvenile code has eroded the common law doctrine for juveniles between thirteen and fourteen). Transfer to adult criminal court is mandatory in first-degree murder cases, regardless of the juvenile’s age. G.S. 7B-2200.
New hearing for Serial killer. NPR notes here that Adnan Syed, a Maryland man who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and whose case became the subject of the enormously popular podcast Serial, has been granted a new hearing to consider “a possible alibi and questions about cellphone data.”
Another drop in executions. Sentencing Law and Policy has this post up, noting that there will almost certainly be fewer than 30 executions in the United States this year, the lowest number since 1991. North Carolina’s last execution was in 2006.
New job. Finally, I’ve been appointed the director of the North Carolina Judicial College, here at the School of Government, effective January 1, 2016. The School’s announcement is here. I mention it mainly because I’ve heard a few crazy rumors so I thought I’d put the actual facts out there. I’ll continue to work in the area of criminal law, hopefully getting to interact with all categories of judicial officials. The School will hire a new faculty member to succeed me in supporting prosecutors, though I’ll remain available to prosecutors and anyone else. Most importantly, the blog will continue! I don’t foresee dramatic changes, though I do hope to enlist some additional contributors to distribute the load more widely and to diversify the perspectives represented.