News Roundup

The New York Times story about Tyre Nichols’ funeral is here. Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the principal eulogy, but there were many speakers, including Mr. Nichols’ mother and Vice President Harris. A common theme was a desire to see changes in policing. The Vice President specifically demanded that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Relatives of Mr. Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Eric Garner were among the mourners. Keep reading for more news.

The transition to eCourts begins. The Administrative Office of the Courts has been working hard to bring North Carolina’s court infrastructure up to date. A key step in that process is the rollout of eCourts, an electronic filing and recordkeeping system. The system will launch on a pilot basis on Monday, February 13, in Harnett, Johnston, Lee, and Wake Counties. Online filing will be mandatory after that date. Some court services may be impacted between now and the go-live date. More information about eCourts is available here.

State supreme court hears arguments about when felons can vote. WRAL reports here that the Supreme Court of North Carolina heard arguments this week in Community Success Initiative v. Moore. The central issue is the constitutionality of G.S. 13-1, which restores felons’ voting rights only upon their “unconditional discharge,” i.e., completion of any sentence of imprisonment, probation, and/or parole. The plaintiffs contend that the aspect of the statute that bars felons from voting while on probation or parole is rooted in racial animus and violates equal protection and other constitutional principles. They prevailed before a three-judge panel of the superior court in Wake County and the matter is now before the state supreme court. The courtroom was packed and an overflow viewing area was established in a nearby church. WRAL portrays the Republican majority on the court as skeptical of the plaintiffs’ position.

Serial update: Maryland appellate court hears victim’s family’s request for a do-over. The Associated Press reports on the latest development in the case at the heart of the podcast Serial: “[A] Maryland appeals court considered whether the victim’s family experienced improper treatment when a Baltimore court overturned [Adnan] Syed’s conviction last year, allowing his release after more than two decades behind bars. . . . Surviving relatives of Hae Min Lee, Syed’s ex-girlfriend and high school classmate who was strangled to death and found buried in a makeshift grave in 1999, contend their rights were violated because they didn’t receive enough notice about the court hearing that won Syed his freedom. They requested a redo of the September hearing — which would likely require reinstating Syed’s conviction — to allow Lee’s brother a meaningful opportunity to participate.” I haven’t looked deeply into the arguments here, but my guess is that reinstating the conviction is unlikely while an opinion excoriating the way in which the prosecution handled Syed’s exoneration is quite possible.

Former crypto tycoon chastised for contacting potential witness. Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of fallen cryptocurrency exchange FTX, is under federal indictment but is out of custody on $250 million bail. He has been making all sorts of public statements but is apparently chatty in private as well. He recently messaged the current general counsel of FTX (which is in bankruptcy proceedings) to say that although “things have ended up on the wrong foot,” he “would really love to reconnect and see if there’s a way for us to have a constructive relationship, use each other as resources when possible, or at least vet things with each other.” The prosecution viewed this as witness tampering and sought to tighten Bankman-Fried’s release conditions. CNN reports here that the judge has agreed, at least for now, finding the message to be an invitation for the general counsel “to align his views and recollections with defendant’s version of events” or in “perhaps more colloquial terms, it appears to have been an effort to have both the defendant and [the witness] sing out of the same hymn book.”

“Crocodile tears.” Finally, the Associated Press has this story about several January 6 capital riot defendants who have professed deep remorse at sentencing but later have claimed to have done nothing wrong. The phenomenon seems to date back to “[t]he first Jan. 6 defendant to get her punishment, Anna Morgan-Lloyd, [who] told [federal Judge Royce] Lamberth that she was ashamed of the ‘savage display of violence’ at the Capitol before he sentenced her to probation” but later told Fox News host Laura Ingraham “that people were ‘very polite’ during the riot and that she saw ‘relaxed’ police officers chatting with rioters.” Judge Lamberth has since expressed “that he hoped another defendant’s ‘change of heart’ was sincere because his hopes were ‘dashed’ in [Ms. Morgan-Lloyd’s] case. In another case, he wrote that he ‘often finds it difficult to ascertain the sincerity’ of Jan. 6 defendants’ remorse.” He reports being “all too familiar with crocodile tears.” The term “crocodile tears” has an interesting etymology, about which you can read here. In brief, centuries ago it was thought that crocodiles shed insincere tears of feigned grief while eating their prey. I’m no crocodile-ologist, but the idea that crocodiles would feel a need to fake remorse strikes me as rather unlikely.

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