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News Roundup

On Tuesday, the city of Louisville announced a settlement agreement in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by police as they served a search warrant at her home in March.  The city agreed to pay Taylor’s family $12 million and to make changes to Louisville Metro Police policy and practice.  The police reforms include mandatory commanding officer review of all search warrants, mandatory EMS/paramedic presence for the execution of all search warrants, and measures to increase officer engagement with the community.  Keep reading or more on this story and other news.

Breonna Taylor.  Breonna Taylor’s death in March came to national attention as part of the protests of racial disparity in policing following George Floyd’s death in May.  When Taylor was killed, Louisville Police were serving a search warrant at her home as part of a series of coordinated searches in a drug investigation into her former boyfriend.  Last week the New York Times podcast The Daily released a two-part examination (Part 1; Part 2) of the events surrounding her death.

Taylor was asleep with her boyfriend, a different person than the man who was the target of the investigation, when officers breached her apartment door with a battering ram.  Apparently mistaking the police for unlawful intruders, Taylor’s boyfriend fired a shot towards the door and struck an officer in the leg, rupturing the officer’s femoral artery.  That officer and others returned fire, hitting Taylor at least eight times.  One officer was terminated for blindly firing into the exterior of Taylor’s apartment building and some have called for criminal charges against the officers involved, but the fact that Taylor’s boyfriend opened fire makes it unclear if there is a basis for charges.

Hendrix.  Last week the News Roundup noted that Henderson County Sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Hendrix was killed in the line of duty after being shot while responding to a vehicle break-in report where the vehicle owner and perpetrator had exchanged gunfire.  WLOS reports that funeral services for Hendrix are scheduled to take place today in Hendersonville.  Hendrix will lie in state at Mud Creek Baptist Church, where the public can pay respects to his family from 10am to 1:45pm.  A funeral, which is not open to the public but will be live streamed online, will follow.  Hendrix then will be taken to Forest Lawn cemetery where a graveside service will be held.  More details of the services are available at the WLOS link.

Indigent Defense & COVID-19.  The SOG has published a new Administration of Justice Legal Bulletin, Indigent Defense Attorneys and COVID-19: FAQs About Practicing During a Pandemic. Written by Ian Mance and John Rubin, the bulletin considers a variety of issues related to defense work and the pandemic, including rules, recommendations, and best practices in the courtroom; the availability of accommodations for defense attorneys; and courts’ authority over attorneys who may be reluctant to appear in the courtroom during the pandemic, including issues of contempt and removal.

Regular readers will remember that Ian previously published a bulletin that analyzes potential mechanisms for securing the release of people in custody in North Carolina during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Additional resources are available in the  COVID-19 Tool Kit on the School’s public defense education web page.

Brevard Public Works.  The Asheville Citizen-Times reports that the director of Brevard Public Works, David Stuart Lutz, recently was indicted for federal environmental crimes for allegedly directing employees in 2016 to dig up soil from the city’s firing range next to its wastewater treatment plant that was contaminated by lead and transport it, without protective equipment or a required hazardous waste manifest, to a location that was not permitted to receive hazardous waste.  Brevard City Manager James Fatland told the Citizen-Times that Lutz is on administrative leave and noted that he is respected by many in the community and has been a dedicated city employee.

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