News Roundup

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The past week has seen Earth Day, the first round of the NFL draft, and continued travel repercussions from the massive cloud of volcanic ash coming from Iceland. (Best Iceland joke I’ve heard: It was the Icelandic economy’s final wish that its ashes be scattered all over the EU.) It has also seen several interesting criminal law developments:

1. The United States Supreme Court decided United States v. Stevens. The Court struck down 18 U.S.C. ยง 48, a recently-enacted statute that criminalizes the commercial creation, sale, or possession of audio or visual representations of the intentional maiming, wounding or killing of an animal, unless the representation has serious educational, scientific, or artistic value. The statute was enacted principally to prohibit crush videos, films in which women in high-heeled shoes slowly crush small animals beneath their feet, but the defendant in Stevens was charged for selling dogfighting videos. He argued that the statute was overbroad in that it prohibited a substantial amount of conduct prohibited by the First Amendment. The Court agreed, suggesting that hunting magazines, for example, might fall within the statute’s scope.

2. Speaking of the Court, speculation continues regarding the successor to Justice Stevens. Recently, Seventh Circuit Judge Ann Williams has emerged as a contender. She’s a former schoolteacher, former federal prosecutor, and long-time federal judge. She was appointed to the district court bench by President Reagan, and became the first black judge on the Seventh Circuit when appointed by President Clinton.

3. Closer to home, Governor Perdue has issued her proposed budget. I can’t make head or tail of the original document, and maybe it doesn’t matter since the General Assembly is almost certain to alter it radically, but you can read about it in the News and Observer here. The Governor has also announced a new research initiative aimed at eventually reducing prison costs. She says that “North Carolina will work with the U.S. Justice Department [and other groups] to study the reasons so many young people end up in prison and invest resources in new programs aimed at addressing the root causes of crime and recidivism. Read more here.

4. Massachusetts is seriously considering enacting a drug dealer registry. One of the proponents of the measure thinks that it should be expanded to “all serious criminals.”

5. Among the more amazing anecdotes from around the Web: Indiana police raiding a barn used by a man they suspected of manufacturing methamphetamine found him hiding . . . in a nearly full manure pit. In England, a man was convicted of DWI after “operating a 4-mph toy electric Barbie car in front of his house while drunk.” He had tricked the car out, apparently, saying “I put larger wheels on it, but it’s not fast.” A much more serious motor vehicle incident took place in New York, where a teenager, high on drugs and on her way to court to face charges for stealing her mother’s jewelry, ran off the road and killed a 69-year-old woman who was mowing her lawn. The driver apparently told police that “[t]he thing that made me feel not so bad was she was old. I mean, 70 years is a long time to live.” No word on how the victim’s two children and other loved ones feel about that. (Hat tips: Fark, Jalopnik, Fark.)

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