News Roundup

A series of shootings in the Atlanta area that left eight people dead is the major criminal law news story of the week and has launched the issue of increasing violence committed against Asians to the forefront of national conversation.  Keep reading for more on this story and other news.

Atlanta.  As the Associated Press reports, on Tuesday five people were shot at Youngs Asian Massage Parlor in Woodstock, Georgia, about 30 miles north of Atlanta.  Shortly thereafter, three people were shot at Gold Spa in Atlanta and another person was shot at the nearby Aromatherapy Spa.  Six of the eight people shot were Asian women, a fact that added to existing widespread fear among Asians that they increasingly have been targeted for race-based violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

A 21-year-old white man, Robert Aaron Long, was arrested hours later after being forced from the highway by sheriff’s deputies in southern Georgia.  Based on statements he made to law enforcement, Long is thought to have been driving to Florida to commit more violence.

While Long apparently has said that the attacks were not motivated by racial animus despite the fact that almost everyone who was killed was Asian, the attacks have added to fears that the violence is part of a recent increase in race-based violent crime.  A Georgia sheriff’s office spokesman involved in the investigation, Jay Baker, who drew criticism for saying that Long was having a “bad day” when he committed the shootings, came under more intense scrutiny when it was reported that Baker himself recently had promoted an anti-Asian racist T-shirt on his personal Facebook page.

COVID Resources.  The UNC School of Government’s Public Defense Education group has published two new white papers considering COVID-19 and the Resumption of Criminal Jury Trials. These papers can be located in the School’s COVID-19 Defense Tool Kit, alongside a variety of other resources focused on defense practice during the pandemic. Authored by attorney Ian Mance, the first paper explores issues related to jury selection, including fair cross section issues and due process concerns related to changes in the voir dire process, while the second considers issues related to the presentation of evidence. A third white paper, focusing on jury deliberations, is forthcoming.

Capitol Charges.  The U.S. Department of Justice announced this week that two men have been charged with assaulting U.S. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was killed during the failed insurrection by extremist supporters of former President Donald Trump at the Capitol in early January.  The DOJ press release says that there is video footage of the men, Julian Elie Khater and George Pierre Tanios, working together to spray officers with an unknown chemical substance, possibly bear spray.  WRAL reports that Khater operated the Frutta Bowls health food cafe in Chapel Hill from January 2018 to January 2019.

Trooper Passes.  There was sad news this week out of Henderson, North Carolina, where State Trooper Brent Montgomery passed away after spending a month in intensive care due to complications from COVID-19.  ABC 11 reports that Montgomery had been battling the virus since February, and that troopers escorted his body home to Granville County from Duke University Hospital on Tuesday.  Details about funeral arrangements for Montgomery are pending.

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