News Roundup

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that a Florida jury divided on the proper sentence for Parkland shooter Nikolas Cruz, with the result that he was to receive a sentence of life without parole. The formal sentencing hearing took place this week, and while the outcome was a foregone conclusion, many surviving victims and relatives of deceased victims addressed the court – and the defendant. Their words were sometimes raw and angry, and at other times preternaturally compassionate. Excepts from their statements appear in a number of stories about the sentencing hearing, including from CNN and the Associated Press.

New episode of the NC Criminal Debrief now available. Phil Dixon’s podcast keeps rolling with a new episode, available here or wherever you get your podcasts. According to the episode description, it “covers the latest in federal and state criminal law news, recent Fourth Amendment cases from the Fourth Circuit, new developments in cannabis and drug identification in the state, new state cases on identity theft and going armed to the terror of the public, as well as a review of recent state sentencing cases.”

NC officers seize THC-infused snacks that looks just like Jolly Ranchers, Kit Kats, and rice crispy treats. WRAL reports here that “[a] Secretary of State-led enforcement [operation] has swept $224,000 worth of THC-infused gummies and snacks that mimic the look of legitimate snack brands off store shelves in North Carolina. The counterfeits had labels that resembled Skittles, Cheetos, Lifesavers, and Girl Scout Cookies.” The story includes photos with other labels, including the ones mentioned in the header, and the labels do indeed look awfully authentic.

Colorado voters to consider legalization of medical psychedelics. You may have noticed that it is election season, and Colorado is considering legalizing personal use of certain psychedelics for medicinal use. Colorado public radio explains here that a ballot measure “would decriminalize psilocybin and psilocin, the hallucinogenic compounds found in certain strains of mushrooms, for those over 21. If [the measure] passes, Coloradans wouldn’t be able to buy mushrooms over the counter [but instead would allow] people over 21 [to] consume psilocybin in state-regulated settings, supervised by a trained facilitator. Starting in 2026, Colorado regulators could decide to create similar programs for DMT, ibogaine and mescaline, excluding peyote.”

Severity-weighted crime index? The FBI is the best source we have for national crime data. But the data are not very good, as CNN explains here and the New York Post echoes here. The FBI is transitioning from a less-detailed system to a more-detailed system, but the new system is voluntary and apparently burdensome, so almost half of all agencies – including huge departments like the NYPD and the LAPD – are not currently contributing. Another difficulty is making sense of circumstances like we have seen in recent years, where homicides are up but many other crimes are not. One possibility is a severity-weighted crime index, which the folks at Crime and Consequences sketch out here. Of course, there is room for debate about how to weight different offenses, and ultimately, the lack of comprehensive and reliable data risks the creation of a “garbage in, garbage out” problem.

Job opportunity at the School of Government. Good news, job seekers! The School of Government is seeking to hire a full-time Legal Research Associate. The Legal Research Associate will be responsible for performing legal research, analysis, and writing to support faculty working in the fields of family law, civil law, estates and special proceedings, and judicial authority and administration. The Legal Research Associate will be involved with research, analysis, writing, cite-checking, and other tasks related to two important publications produced by the School of Government: the District Court Judges’ Benchbook and the Clerk of Superior Court Manual Series. For more information on the position and how to apply, check out the posting here.

Since we’re talking about UNC . . . Although it is off-topic for this blog, many readers are aware that UNC’s admissions practices are before the Supreme Court of the United States. At issue is whether UNC may properly use an applicant’s race as a consideration in its efforts to construct a diverse student body. The case was argued this week. The New York Times has a story here and the transcript of the argument is here.