News Roundup

It is hard to find good help these days, with unemployment low and employers competing fiercely for workers. It’s well known that law enforcement agencies are having trouble recruiting sworn officers, but WFMY reports here that jails are having trouble hiring enough detention officers as well. In Forsyth County, 77 out of 249 positions are vacant. Other counties are also in dire straits. Corrections 1 noted a few weeks ago that Mecklenburg County was short more than 100 detention officers. Keep reading for more news.

Gun safety bill on the brink of passage. Last week’s News Roundup reported that a bipartisan group of Senators had reached a framework agreement on gun safety measures, including funding for mental health, support for state red flag laws, and expanded background checks for gun buyers under age 21. That framework agreement is now a bill. CNN explains here that it has already passed the Senate, 65-34, and is expected to pass the House today. President Biden has already indicated that he will sign it. Those interested in the text can find it in Section 3 of S 2938. The most pertinent provision for criminal law purposes is a change to the definition of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” in 18 U.S.C. 922(a)(33) to include crimes committed against a person with whom the defendant has a current or former dating relationship (not just against a current or former spouse or cohabitant, which is current law). For reasons explained in this prior blog post, North Carolina assaults, including assault on a female, generally do not count as “misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence,” so absent a change to state law, I don’t think the federal bill will have a big impact here. We may be beyond news roundup territory at this point, so I’ll save further thoughts for another time.

SCOTUS cases coming fast and furious. The Court is closing out its Term and dropping cases faster than I can follow them. Obviously Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization came out today and is huge but mostly (?) off topic for this blog. The big one yesterday was New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, which struck down, as violating the Second Amendment, New York’s licensing scheme for carrying a handgun outside the home. But there were other cases of potential significance too, including one holding that a failure to read a suspect his or her Miranda rights can’t support a section 1983 lawsuit and a case about the proper means by which a condemned inmate may challenge the method of execution. We’ll summarize the most relevant cases next week, so stay tuned.

Sports betting bill suffers setback. Ever since the Supreme Court of the United State decided NCAA v. Murphy in 2018, states have been free to set their own rules about sports gambling. North Carolina generally hasn’t allowed it, while many other states have. That seemed set to change this legislative session, but WRAL reports here that the measure that would have legalized sports gambling was hamstrung in the General Assembly this week. It looks like the key measure is S 688, and the General Assembly website does indeed show it narrowly failing to pass on Wednesday. A proponent told WRAL that the bill is not “totally dead,” but I wouldn’t bet on it passing this session, so to speak.

How to spot a liar. Study after study has shown that it is hard to determine who is lying and who is telling the truth. Most research shows that people, even trained law enforcement officers, are not much better than chance at detecting lies. We often rely on “indicators” that are not actually correlated with dishonesty, such as whether the person looks us in the eyes when talking. CNBC reports here on the results of a $15 million federal research initiative into detecting deception. Key takeaways? Body language is irrelevant. The key is to be nice, get the person talking, make them commit to a story, and then confront them with contradictory evidence and see whether it throws them for a loop or is easily explained. Of course, if you’re armed in advance with tons of contradictory evidence, maybe you already know what happened.

Come to Defender Trial School at the SOG! Are you a defense attorney looking to sharpen your skills? Have a case coming up for trial that you’d like to work on? Then consider coming to Defender Trial School, July 11-15. As the course website explains, “Participants will use their own cases to develop a cohesive theory of defense at trial and apply that theory through all stages of a criminal trial, including voir dire, opening and closing arguments, and direct and cross-examination.”