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News Roundup

A joint investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. DEA focusing on drug trafficking at fraternities at UNC made national news late this week when prosecutors announced charges against 21 people.  An Associated Press report says that people connected to the Phi Gamma Delta, Kappa Sigma, and Betta Theta Pi fraternities at UNC are alleged to have distributed more than a half-ton of marijuana, hundreds of kilograms of cocaine, and significant quantities of other drugs between 2017 and the spring of 2020.  Some of the drugs apparently were distributed at Duke and Appalachian State as well.  In a press release, U.S. Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin said that the “investigation reveals that the fraternity culture at these universities is dangerous” and called on University administrators and national fraternity chapters to intervene.  Keep reading for more news.

COVID Remote Testimony Bulletin.  Regular blog readers know that Ian Mance and John Rubin have put out a series of bulletins in recent months related to COVID-19 and criminal defense practice.  A new bulletin – COVID-19 and Remote Testimony in Criminal Trials – was just published this week.  As with all of the other bulletins, it is available for free as part of the Public Defense Education group’s COVID-19 Tool Kit.  Here’s a brief summary of the new bulletin from the authors:

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise across North Carolina, criminal jury trials have resumed in some districts following a six-month hiatus. Their resumption has raised a number of issues, among them whether the State may present remote testimony of its witnesses by electronic means to mitigate the risk of contracting the virus, as opposed to requiring them to appear in court. While courts may be sympathetic to concerns about contracting the disease, the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution places significant limitations on their authority with respect to remote testimony. Absent extraordinary circumstances, criminal defendants must waive their right to face-to-face confrontation before remote testimony may lawfully be introduced against them.

Officer Killed.  There was tragic news out of Concord this week where Concord Police Officer Jason Shuping was killed in the line of duty while trying to apprehend a carjacking suspect.  Shuping, CPD officer Kaleb Robinson, and an ALE agent were attempting to make contact with Jeremy Maurice Daniels at a Sonic restaurant after identifying him as matching the description of the carjacker.  As they approached, Daniels shot at them with a handgun, fatally striking Shuping and injuring Robinson.  Daniels was shot and killed by two other CPD officers who responded to the scene.

NC Pardons.  As the News & Observer reports, this week Governor Roy Cooper pardoned five people who had been wrongfully convicted of serious crimes and spent years in North Carolina prisons.  Cooper pardoned Ronnie Long, who was released from prison in August after serving almost 44 years for a 1976 rape he did not commit.  The N&O report says that Long’s time served is the third longest in U.S. history for an exonerated defendant.  Cooper also pardoned Kenneth Kagonyera, Teddy Lamont Isbell, Sr., Damian Miguel Mills, and Larry Jerome Williams, Jr., all of whom had been wrongfully convicted of murder.

Jail Deaths.  Over the past several months, Reuters has published a multi-part investigative report examining more than a decade’s worth of mortality data from every large jail in the country, which they define as those with 750 inmates or more.  The full report, entitled Dying Inside, is available here and reports specific to each state, including North Carolina, are available here.  The report notes a number of issues that have been in the News Roundup or on the blog this year, including that many facilities around the country have privatized their healthcare services, that many of those who die in jail are pretrial detainees, and that a significant portion of jail deaths are suicides or involve drugs and alcohol.

UNC MPA Students Professional Work Experience.  In addition to working with stakeholders in the North Carolina justice system, the School of Government houses UNC’s Master of Public Administration Program, one of the top programs of its kind in the country.  Many UNC MPA students take leadership roles in North Carolina local governments after graduation.  As part of the degree process, MPA students participate in professional work experience internships where they serve in local, state, and federal governments or in the nonprofit sector.  If you work in an organization that could take advantage of assistance from one of these talented students, consider hosting a UNC MPA student for a professional work experience internship.  More information is available here, and you can submit your interest in being connected with an MPA student intern here.

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