News Roundup

The most shocking story of the week involves four residents of South Carolina who travelled to Mexico, where two were killed and the other two abducted and eventually rescued. At least one member of the group was apparently planning a cosmetic medical procedure while abroad. It initially appeared that the four had been accidentally caught in the middle of a shootout between rival cartels, but more recent reporting has suggested that they may have been targeted after being mistaken for Haitian drug traffickers – or even may have been involved in drug trafficking themselves. WRAL has an updated story here, and the New York Post has one here scrutinizing the criminal history of the victims. It is certainly an evolving story. Read on for more news.

Senate overturns Washington, DC’s attempt to reform its criminal code. As Reuters reports here, the city council of Washington, DC recently approved changes to the city’s criminal code, including “lower[ing] penalties for burglary, carjacking and some other crimes.” It did so over the veto of the city’s mayor and despite the objections of its police chief. But the changes were turned back by the United States Senate. For only the fourth time in history, the Senate exercised its ultimate authority over the city’s laws. The vote was a bipartisan 81-14 “as Democrats’ support for self-governance in the nation’s capital [took] a back seat to public-safety concerns.”

Six-year-old who shot teacher won’t be charged. Remember the young student who non-fatally shot his teacher in Newport News, Virginia? CNN has an update here, confirming that no charges will be brought against the child. According to the boy’s family, he “was under a care plan at the school that included his mother or father attending school with him and accompanying him to class every day,” with the week of the shooting being the first week that his parents were not present. The gun he used was reportedly stored on the top shelf of his mother’s closet and was secured by a trigger lock; the story does not say how the boy was able to access it and render it operable.

Governments taking action on the high cost of prison and jail phone calls. The Marshall Project has this story about a topic the News Roundup has covered before: the high cost of phone calls for incarcerated people. Colorado is considering legislation that would make all calls from state prisons free for inmates; if it passes, “Colorado would be the third state to cover the cost of all state prison phone calls.” At the federal level, new legislation effective in 2024 allows the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the cost of prison phone calls. Some cities have also made local jail calls free, including New York City, Miami, and Louisville.

Speaking of Louisville . . . NPR reports here that the US Department of Justice has concluded an investigation into the Louisville police that began after the death of Breonna Taylor. The full 90-page report is here but the Executive Summary says that the department engaged in a pattern or practice of violating civil rights, including by making unlawful stops, using excessive force, executing invalid warrants, and discriminating against Black people. The report also notes that the department has made a number of changes since Taylor’s death. The city apparently intends to enter into a consent decree that will require a number of additional reforms.

New episode of the NC Criminal Debrief podcast now available. Finally, Phil Dixon’s latest is accessible here or on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify. The show notes indicate that it covers “covers the latest in criminal law, including artificial intelligence and the law, harm reduction laws, khat, the constitutionality of disorderly conducts laws, live-streaming the police, the exclusionary rule at probation, and more.”