Again this week the coronavirus pandemic was the dominant news story across the nation, with many communities around North Carolina issuing stay at home orders directing residents to avoid leaving their homes except for essential activities. We continue to be grateful for the efforts of North Carolinians on the front lines of the pandemic – healthcare providers, emergency responders, law enforcement, state and local government officials and employees, and those who work in essential businesses. Keep reading for more news.
Criminal Law Update. If you are reading the News Roundup before 1 p.m. then you still have time to join Shea Jamie, and Jonathan for a Criminal Law Update delivered directly to wherever you are through a Zoom Meeting video conference. As Shea described earlier this week, in person conferences and other trainings are on hold for the time being so case updates are going digital. Today’s forum will include discussion of notable recent criminal law decisions by the appellate courts. See Shea’s post here for details about how to join the Zoom Meeting.
Hoover. The Charlotte Observer reports that Mecklenburg Superior Court Judge Donnie Hoover’s wife Josephine has been hospitalized after testing positive for the novel coronavirus. Hoover now is awaiting his own test results. Our thoughts and hopes for a speedy recovery are with Judge Hoover and his family.
Home Confinement. ABC News reports that Attorney General William Barr said in a press conference on Thursday that he has issued recommendations to the Federal Bureau of Prisons to explore releasing prisoners who are especially at risk from the coronavirus to home confinement. Barr said that one third of the population of federal inmates have a pre-existing medical condition and that around 10,000 inmates are over the age of 60. Barr indicated to ABC News in an interview that prisoners convicted of violent crimes and sex offenses would not be eligible for release to home confinement. Anyone who is released will be required to quarantine themselves for 14 days. The ABC report notes that staff and inmates at federal facilities in New York, Atlanta, and Louisiana have tested positive for the virus.
Court Slows. The New York Times reports this week that the pace of work in the New York state criminal justice system has slowed considerably due to limitations caused by the coronavirus. The story notes that some state judges are presiding over arraignments remotely through video conferencing, some people who have been arrested are spending longer periods of time in pretrial confinement, and the functioning of grand juries has been substantially impaired. At least one New York district attorney has announced that his office temporarily will not prosecute low-level nonviolent offenses.
Kelly & Weinstein. R&B singer R. Kelly is among the people who would like to be released from a federal detention facility due to coronavirus concerns, the Associated Press reports. Kelly currently is in federal pretrial detention on sexual misconduct charges and is being held in the Metropolitan Detention Center in Chicago. In a court filing Kelly said that conditions in the facility make social distancing impossible. Separately, the New York Times reports that Harvey Weinstein has tested positive for coronavirus and is being held in isolation at a federal facility near Buffalo.
Maduro. In other news from the United States Department of Justice, the Associated Press reports that the DOJ has indicted Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro and other high-ranking Venezuelan government officials on drug trafficking, weapons, and conspiracy offenses. The government is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Maduro.