News Roundup

The Associated Press reports here that “[f]ive fired Memphis police officers were charged Thursday with murder and other crimes in the killing of Tyre Nichols, a Black motorist who died three days after a confrontation with the officers during a traffic stop.” The officers allegedly beat Mr. Nichols to death. All five have been charged with second-degree murder among other crimes. Video of the incident is expected to be released to the public today and those who have seen it describe it as “horrific.” In a local connection, the Chief of Police in Memphis is CJ Davis, who served in a similar position in Durham until 2021. Chief Davis fired the five officers and has described their conduct as “a failure of basic humanity.” The officers’ attorneys say that they have little information about the case but that none of the officers intended to kill Mr. Nichols. Keep reading for more news.

Death sentence returned in North Carolina. WECT News reports here that “James Edward McKamey, who was convicted of murder in the death of a former Columbus County music teacher, has been sentenced to death.” Apparently, McKamey stabbed one woman who was giving him a ride home. She escaped, but McKamey went to another woman’s home and fatally stabbed her before stealing her car. He was convicted of attempted murder for the first stabbing and of first-degree murder for the second. And yesterday, he was sentenced to death. Capital trials, let alone death sentences, are relatively rare in North Carolina. In recent years, we’ve averaged about one death sentence per year, and no one has been executed in this state since 2006 as a result of litigation over the method of execution and over the impact of the repeal of the Racial Justice Act.

Violent crime declining in most major cities. The Council on Criminal Justice issued this news release about its own analysis of crime data, finding that “[m]ost types of violent crime dropped in major American cities in 2022, but robberies and theft offenses rose as the nation emerged from the coronavirus pandemic.” As to homicide specifically, “[t]he analysis found that the number of murders in 2022 was 4% lower than counts recorded in 2021.” For context, “the national homicide rate remained 34% higher than in 2019, the year before the pandemic began, and about half the historical nationwide peaks in 1980 and 1991.” Of course, conditions varied by locality. “Fourteen of the 27 reporting cities tallied a drop or no change in homicide last year, ranging from decreases of 40% in Richmond, VA, to no change in St. Louis. Thirteen cities experienced increases, ranging from less than 1% in Houston to 48% in Raleigh, NC.”

Beth Wood’s case continued. As noted in last week’s news roundup, State Auditor Beth Wood has been charged with hit-and-run as a result of hitting a parked car in Raleigh in December and leaving the scene. She had a court date this week, but according to ABC11, Wood “did not appear in a Wake County courtroom” as “[h]er case has been moved to March.” Wood has expressed regret over what she describes as a mistake.

Could that six-year-old in Virginia who shot his teacher be charged? The Marshall Project ponders that question here. Theoretically, it seems that the answer may be yes as Virginia – like 23 other states – has no minimum age of juvenile jurisdiction. (If you want to know the law in North Carolina, you can find it in this prior post by Jacqui Greene.) But most folks seem to think that the actual likelihood of charges being brought is very slim.

New Orleans pauses jury trials because convicted felons aren’t being allowed on juries. This local article summarizes that “[i]n 2021, the Louisiana legislature changed the law to allow people with felony convictions to serve on juries as long as they have been off of probation or parole for five years, and are not under indictment. . . . But despite the new law, defense attorneys have argued that the criminal court in New Orleans has been continuing to exclude anyone with a past felony conviction by sending out summons with outdated information and failing to update their online questionnaire for jurors.” Ongoing trials have been paused and no new jury trials will be scheduled until at least March to assess these allegations. If true, the validity of convictions obtained at trial since the law changed may also come into question.

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