Houston news outlet FOX 26 recently highlighted a new report from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at UT Austin that examines COVID deaths in Texas prisons and jails, where the positive test rate is 490% higher than the rate in Texas as a whole. There are a number of notable findings in the report, including that 80% of people who died from the virus in jails were pretrial detainees and that nine people died after being approved for parole but before they were released. Slightly more than 10% of the people who have died in association with Texas correctional facilities were staff members. The full report is available here. Keep reading for more news.
Recount. As WRAL reports, the race for Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court is heading for a recount after preliminary results put Justice Paul Newby ahead of Chief Justice Cheri Beasley by a mere 409 votes. A WCU political science professor interviewed in the article, Chris Cooper, said that statewide recounts of races across the country in recent years have averaged a shift in vote totals of about 430 votes.
Decriminalization. WLOS reported this week that the North Carolina Task Force for Racial Equity is suggesting the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of marijuana. The recommendation is motivated in part by the fact that there are racial disparities in criminal convictions for possession of small amounts of the drug. The WLOS report says that studies indicate that 60% of people convicted for small possession crimes in North Carolina are Black. The task force plans to present a final report on the issue to the governor’s office in December.
In another report, WLOS noted this week that the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote next month on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, a bill that would remove marijuana from the federal list of scheduled substances and eliminate criminal penalties for certain marijuana offenses.
Cold Case Arrest. As ABC 11 reports, the Fayetteville Police Department has made an arrest in a rape case that has been unsolved for nearly 30 years. In September of 1992, the victim was cleaning offices at Lafayette Memorial Park when she was knocked unconscious and driven to a wooded area in Harnett County. She was beaten, sexually assaulted, and left for dead. The break in the case came when a sample of DNA from Roy Junior Proctor was submitted to a database as part of unrelated criminal charges. That DNA allegedly linked Proctor to the 1992 offenses, and he has been charged with first-degree rape, attempted first-degree murder, kidnapping, and other offenses.
PDs Refuse Jury Trials. The Denver Post reported this week that two Colorado public defenders are at risk of being held in contempt of court after refusing to participate in a jury trial in Larimer County, causing the presiding judge to declare a mistrial. The report says that 16 out of 22 of the state’s judicial districts have suspended jury trials altogether and two additional districts have suspended trials in counties where COVID levels are high. The defenders’ refusal to go forward with trial apparently follows a protracted disagreement on the jury trial issue between their office and the district’s chief judge.
COVID Cluster. WLOS says that an outbreak of COVID-19 among Haywood County Detention Center staff members has been connected to a detention officer certification training event that was held recently at Haywood Community College. In addition to the Haywood officers, others from Jackson, Swain, and Macon counties also attended the class. Seven of the ten Haywood officers who attended the training have tested positive. They have been quarantining and the WLOS report says that other staff and inmates at the detention center were not affected.