News Roundup

The Gaston Gazette reports that Mark Carver has been granted a new trial after being convicted a decade ago of murdering UNC Charlotte student Ira Yarmolenko.  A superior court judge ruled that Carver received ineffective assistance of counsel during his first trial.  Chris Mumma of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence is representing Carver.  District Attorney Locke Bell has said he will appeal the ruling and conduct a new trial if that appeal is not successful.  Keep reading for more news.

Virginia Beach.  Last Friday afternoon, America again witnessed a horrific mass shooting, this time in Virginia Beach.  As USA Today reports, twelve people were killed at a public works municipal building when an employee attacked his coworkers with a pistol fitted with a suppressor and extended magazines.  The shooter killed people on every floor of the three-story building.  Use of the suppressor caused confusion as people did not realize that an attack was unfolding and then had difficulty knowing where the shooter was in the building.  Police officers responding to the scene eventually engaged the shooter in a gun battle and took him into custody, though he later died from injuries sustained in the faceoff with police.

The Virginian-Pilot has published several articles about the shooting.  The story of Keith Cox putting himself in harm’s way in an effort to make sure that his colleagues were safe is here and here; Cox was shot and killed as he tried to assist others.  A survivor’s first-hand account of encountering the shooter, a coworker, while not realizing that he was the perpetrator of the ongoing attack is here.  A report that the local medical examiner has found that 9 of the 12 victims were shot in the head is here.

Run, Hide, Fight.  As this report from the PBS NewsHour indicates, the fact that the Virginia Beach shooter used a suppressor to muffle the sound of his weapon has caused some people to question the effectiveness of the now-standard advice that people in active shooter scenarios run, hide, and fight – in that order of preference.  The report notes that it is difficult to know where to run or hide when you don’t know where gunfire is coming from.

SRO Charged.  The New York Times reports that the former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy who was on duty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when 17 people were killed there in a mass shooting in early 2018 has been charged with seven counts of felony neglect of a child as well as perjury.  Scot Peterson was the only armed guard on campus during the shooting and was widely criticized for staying outside the building rather than attempting to stop the attack.  Another article from the Times looks at the difficult moral questions wrapped up in expectations of bravery for law enforcement officers responding to life threatening situations.

Fines.  The Statesville Record & Landmark reports that attorneys at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice have raised questions about the operation of Administrative Traffic Court in Iredell and Alexander counties.  The article says that the administrative courts in those counties may be assessing failure to appear and failure to comply fines improperly.  The article says that under current practice in those counties, traffic offenders are assessed a “Failure to Appear fee” and a “Failure to Comply fee” when they do not pay their traffic tickets and costs of court on time.  Attorneys quoted in the article say that, in contrast to that practice, the law contemplates that a failure to appear occurs only when a person physically does not attend a calendared court date and that a failure to comply occurs only in situations involving a judgment from a judicial official.

Heat.  WECT News reports that guards and inmates in some North Carolina prison facilities must endure extreme heat in the summer months because the prison buildings where they work and are detained do not have air conditioning.  The report says that there are 10 prisons in the state which do not have air conditioning systems.  The report says that prison officials indicated that use of fans, limitations on outside work, and provision of water are among the strategies used to try to keep people at these facilities comfortable.

When We Were Young.  Rumor has it that there’s a popular new employee at the Orange County Courthouse.  I’ve been told that she looks like a movie, some say that she sounds like a song.  At the risk of starting a fire in your heart, I’m wondering if after all these years you’d like to meet – Adele the Courthouse Facility Dog.  Here she is asking for a true copy of an official record at the clerk’s office; here she is working in her office; and here she is lounging with a stuffed duck.

4 thoughts on “News Roundup”

  1. I don’t remember the case law by name, but the circumstances in the case involved a sheriff’s office and domestic violence victim who wound up getting killed despite repeated warnings about the violent nature of the offender. If memory serves, ultimately the courts determined that the sheriff’s office had made no promises about protecting the victim and were not, by law, liable for her safety. The killer may have even been a deputy.

    Anyway, not saying I have any sympathy for Scot Peterson but I do wonder if that has any bearing on the Peterson case. Or maybe it’s apples and oranges.

    • The police have no general duty to protect. Warren v. District of Columbia (444 A.2d. 1, D.C. Ct. of Ap. 1981) is an oft-quoted District of Columbia Court of Appeals (equivalent to a state supreme court) case that held police do not have a duty to provide police services to individuals, even if a dispatcher promises help to be on the way, except when police develop a special duty to particular individuals. Because the police have no general duty to protect individuals, judicial remedies are not available for their failure to protect. In other words, if someone is injured because they expected but did not receive police protection, they cannot recover damages by suing (except in very special cases). Despite a long history of such failed attempts, however, many, people persist in believing the police are obligated to protect them, attempt to recover when no protection was forthcoming, and are emotionally demoralized when the recovery fails. Legal annals abound with such cases.


      Columbine resulted in new approaches in which patrol officers were (or should have been) trained to respond to active shooters as quickly as possible. In my case I was trained that the first four officers (regardless of rank or department) who show up at an active shooter scene formed up into a threat elimination team. This was not a “contain and negotiate” methodology. It’s a go in and decisively stop the threat “search and incapacitate” as quickly as possible. No waiting for authority to do it, you already have the authority.

      It appears to me that this is a CIVIL matter and that the fault lies with the department head that failed to properly train their sworn officers to respond to active shooters in the currently accepted proper way.

      • The Florida deputy is being prosecuted under state law. No one is alleging that the deputy had a constitutional or generalized duty to protect the public. It is my understanding (and I’m not licensed in Florida and haven’t looked closely into the facts involved here) that the prosecutor is alleging that the Deputy was hired to protect the students and faculty at that specific school, that the deputy was lawfully responsible for the students’ well-being, and that made the deputy a legal caretaker of the minor students in the limited capacity of situations in which a deputy with a gun hired to protect the minor students would be expected to actually protect those minor students. The Florida prosecutor apparently is alleging that this shooter scenario is precisely the sort of situation the deputy was hired to protect against. If the court agrees, then the deputy can be found to have criminally violated Florida State law by not trying to stop the person who was harming the children. (Sort of like when in North Carolina we charge the mother of a child who is beaten by the step-dad when the mother does not physically try to stop the beating).

  2. I’d like to be the first one to volunteer to be the handler for any other courthouses that would like to get an emotional support dog.


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