Last week, President Biden issued this proclamation effectively pardoning “all current United States citizens and lawful permanent residents who committed the offense of simple possession of marijuana” in violation of federal law, including the laws of Washington, DC. It seems that no one will be released from prison as a result, as no one is in federal prison solely for marijuana possession, and marijuana possession has been permitted under DC law since 2014. However, the US Sentencing Commission’s analysis reveals that over 6,500 US citizens, and over 1,000 legal permanent residents, will have previous federal convictions wiped away under the pardon proclamation. I could not find a similar analysis of the effect of the pardon on DC convictions.
Of course, the vast majority of convictions for marijuana possession take place in state court. Here in North Carolina, there were almost 2,000 convictions for simple possession of a Schedule VI controlled substance last year alone. According to WCNC, Governor Cooper supports President Biden’s issuance of the blanket pardon. The Governor has said that “simple possession of small amounts of marijuana should not be a crime” and that he has “asked [his] lawyers to examine North Carolina law regarding simple possession of marijuana convictions and pardons to determine if there is action we can and should take.” If the Governor does take any action, we will of course cover it here. Read on for more news.
Raleigh mass shooting leaves an officer dead, a juvenile in custody. WRAL reports that “[f]ive people were killed Thursday, including a 16-year-old boy and an off-duty Raleigh police officer, in a mass shooting in an east Raleigh neighborhood.” Details are scarce, but a 15-year-old is in custody – and apparently in critical condition at a local hospital. I am not aware of any publicly available information about the alleged shooter’s motive. Obviously, a tragic and somber event.
Parkland school shooter given life sentence. Legal proceedings regarding another mass shooting came to an end this week when a Florida jury spared the life of Nikolas Cruz, who shot and killed 17 people at a Florida high school. Local 10 reports that 9 jurors wanted to impose the death penalty, while 3 voted for life. Florida law differs from North Carolina law in that a penalty phase verdict need not be unanimous. Rather, the jury votes and if any juror votes for life without parole, that is the sentence. Many relatives of the victims have spoken out about their disappointment in the verdict. Deliberations were apparently contentious, with one juror reporting that she was threatened by another juror during the process.
Burlington police use severed finger left at crime scene to identify suspect. WRAL reports here that a man tried to force his way into a Burlington home, but the homeowner was able to slam the door on the would-be intruder, apparently severing his finger. The finger, and the glove it was in, were left at the scene, and investigators “used the evidence to arrest Vernon Forest Wilson” for the crime.
Harnett County potential juror jailed for contempt after refusing to wear a mask. This story in the Daily Record details how Navy veteran Gregory Hahn of Angier wound up spending a night in jail. In short, he was summoned for jury duty in Harnett County. Face masks are not required in the Harnett County Courthouse, but each presiding judge may require masks in his or her courtroom. Superior Court Judge Winston Gilchrist requires masks. It seems that Hahn was repeatedly advised of that, but refused to wear one because he “thought we were done with these masks.” As a result, Judge Gilchrist held him in contempt. Hahn has since been released from jail.
Charges dismissed against Adnad Syed of Serial fame. We noted previously that Adnan Syed had been awarded a new trial and released from prison. This week, prosecutors announced what had been expected – that they will not retry Syed. According to WBAL TV, part of the reason given was “the results of touch DNA testing on items that were not tested before that included a skirt, pantyhose, shoes and a jacket belonging to [the victim].” Prosecutors reported that “there was a DNA mixture of multiple contributors on both shoes and that Adnan Syed’s DNA was excluded.”
Did you think that last week’s story about cheating at a fishing tournament wasn’t a criminal law story? It was, and it is back, with ESPN reporting here that “[t]wo anglers accused of stuffing fish with lead weights and fillets in an attempt to win thousands of dollars in an Ohio fishing tournament were indicted Wednesday on charges of attempted grand theft and other counts.”