News Roundup

The AOC announced here that 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of North Carolina’s unified court system, the Administrative Office of the Courts, and the district courts.  Next year, the Court of Appeals celebrates its 50th anniversary while the superior court marks 240 years of existence.  The Supreme Court will have been around for two centuries in 2019.  For the few who forgot these important milestones, shame on you but there’s still time to do something nice for the court or administrative office that holds a special place in your heart – maintain proper decorum in the courtroom, strive to preserve the record for appellate review, clarify and reorganize those statutes that the court has been grumbling about.  Here’s to all the folks who work hard to keep our court system running smoothly.  Let’s roundup the other news of the week:

Exonerations.  The National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan Law School reports here that a record number of people, 149 at last count, were exonerated in the United States in 2015.  More than two-thirds of those who were exonerated were minorities and more than one-third of exonerations occurred in homicide cases.  Five people exonerated last year had been sentenced to death.

For Sale: 8,000 Hours of Supreme Court Oral Argument.  Now that I’ve got your attention, here’s the catch: it’s going to cost you about a million dollars.  Jerry Goldman, a research professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law, is planning to retire from teaching in May and he would like someone to take over the Oyez Project, a private online archive of Supreme Court materials.  The Harvard Law School Library is reportedly interested in keeping the project going, but objects to paying Goldman personally for the intellectual property the project represents.   

Body Cameras.  The News and Observer has an op-ed from Jeff this week that discusses police body cameras and the need to balance privacy and transparency with regard to public access to recorded footage from the cameras.  Among other things, Jeff notes that North Carolina public records law may restrict public access to the type of footage that is most relevant to law enforcement transparency and accountability, but that there are legitimate reasons for the restrictions.

Predictive Policing.  Body cameras aren’t the only high-tech tool being employed by law enforcement officers.  The Marshall Project reports here that officers in the Saint Louis County Police Department are experimenting with predictive policing software that identifies “hot spots” where crime is likely to occur in the future.  The software analyzes past crime data, population density, census data, sports schedules, moon phases, and other information in order to predict where crime is likely to occur.  The article suggests that a wide variety of predictive policing software is generating substantial interest from law enforcement agencies and technology companies.

The Eagle Has Landed (Your Drone).  The Washington Post reports that Dutch police are fed up with the buzzing menace of illegal drone operation and are pursuing an entirely reasonable strategy for knocking offending drones out of the air: attacking them with specially trained eagles.  Touted as a “low-tech solution to a high-tech problem,” the scheme is not without complication.  In addition to the difficulty of maintaining respectability while pursuing a tactic that the Dutch public reportedly assumes is a hoax, the eagles are destroying “a lot of drones” which is leading to considerable testing costs.

6 thoughts on “News Roundup”

  1. The 1,733 exonerations so far certified by the National Registry are of course only a tiny fraction of the cases that deserve inclusion. Of the seven defendants in the Little Rascals Day Care case, for instance, only Bob Kelly and Dawn Wilson are listed. Their convictions were resoundingly overturned by the NC Court of Appeals; charges were plea-bargained or dropped for the others accused of this imaginary crime.

  2. Ah, Exonerations… First on their list is Joseph Abbitt, who was allegedly exonerated in 2009. Problem is that after he was “exonerated”, subsequent DNA testing by an independent, private lab of the bed sheets taken from the victim’s bed matched his DNA, and again made him the prime suspect.

    Here is a full summary from the Winston Salem PD:

    See also this story from the WS Journal:

    This is a fact the Exoneration Registry fails to mention.

  3. So it looks like my other comment is stuck in moderation. For those who are curious, do some research on Greg Abbitt, the first person on the “exonerated” registry. After his “exoneration”, DNA testing was done on the bedsheets of one of the rape victims in hopes of generating new leads.

    It led right back to Greg Abbitt. Too bad he died before he could explain why his DNA was found…


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