News Roundup

The election this week had some notable results. Republicans swept the races for appellate judgeships, shifting the state supreme court from majority Democrat to majority Republican. In Columbus County, Jody Greene was elected sheriff just weeks after resigning the same office. He resigned after District Attorney Jon David filed a petition seeking to remove him based in part on racially-charged comments he made during a recorded phone call. This local story indicates that District Attorney David is planning to file a new removal petition against Sheriff-elect Greene. A similar pattern nearly played out in Franklin County, where former clerk of court Patricia Chastain, who had been removed from office by a superior court judge, narrowly lost her bid to be elected back to the same position. This pre-election story has the details. Keep reading for more news.

Drug legalization on the ballot. Five states voted on whether to legalize recreational marijuana. According to this CNBC story“[v]oters in Maryland and Missouri approved the legalization, while similar proposals were rejected in Arkansas, North Dakota and South Dakota.” Nineteen states and the District of Columbia had previously legalized recreational marijuana. In Colorado, voters narrowly approved a ballot initiative described by the Colorado Sun as follows: “The measure will allow people 21 and older to grow and share psychedelic mushrooms, as well as create state-regulated centers where people could make appointments to consume psilocybin, the hallucination-inducing compound derived from psychedelic mushrooms. It calls for licensed ‘healing centers’ to give clients mushrooms in a supervised setting, but — unlike marijuana — does not include an option for retail sales.” Psilocybin remains a Schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law.

Death sentence in Teghan Skiba case. Defendant Jonathan Richardson was sentenced to death this week in Johnston County for kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering four-year-old Teghan Skiba. The jury was selected from neighboring Harnett County and bussed in to court each day. WRAL has a story up about the case. The facts make for hard enough reading that I won’t recount them here. After a couple of pandemic years in which no death sentences were returned, this is at least the second such verdict in North Carolina this year.

“Supreme Court more diverse than the lawyers who argue before it.” That’s the headline of this AP story, and it pretty much sums up the article. The lawyers who appear before the Court are overwhelmingly male and white – even though the current Solicitor General of the United States, Elizabeth Prelogar, is female. The pipeline starts with Supreme Court clerks who, according to the article, are not a particularly diverse group either.

Text message reminders prove their worth again. Yes, you get one from your dentist and perhaps your hairstylist. Yes, they’ve previously shown promise in reducing failures to appear in court. Now, a new study suggests that text message reminders can help people make their scheduled meetings with their probation and parole officers, too. I don’t know whether they’re in use in North Carolina for that purpose, but it seems like a reasonable idea.

Recorded webinar about reducing FTAs. Speaking of helping people show up, on Friday, October 28th, the Criminal Justice Innovation Lab hosted the webinar Court Appearance Matters: Promoting Justice and Efficiency by Addressing the Problem of Missed Court Dates. According to the Lab, stakeholders from Robeson, New Hanover, and Orange Counties shared valuable insights about the solutions they developed to address court appearance issues as part of the North Carolina Court Appearance Project. If you missed the webinar live, you can find a recording here.

911? My barbecue doesn’t look good to me. Finally, and perhaps on the lighter side, WRAL has this story about a woman who called 911 when a local barbecue restaurant served her meat that she deemed too pink. She told the dispatcher that she “had ordered some food from there and the barbecue is pink . . . I asked for either for them to cook it some more or exchange my order. They are saying that the meat is supposed to be pink.” Apparently an officer responded to the emergency and was able to work things out, but the woman nonetheless told WRAL she is considering filing a civil lawsuit against the restaurant. She also contends that her mac ‘n’ cheese wasn’t fully melted, so the potential damages could really add up!