News Roundup

Sadly, this week’s news was dominated by yet another mass school shooting. Three nine-year-old students and three staff members at Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee, were killed Monday morning by a lone shooter, who entered the school armed with two assault-style rifles and a handgun. Police shot and killed the suspect, 28-year-old Audrey Hale, a former student at the school.

The Associated Press reports that before Monday, there had been seven mass killings at K-12 schools since 2006. In each of those, the shooter was male. Hale, who was assigned female gender at birth, reportedly used he/him pronouns on social media.

Police say that Hale planned the massacre, drawing out a detailed map and surveilling the building. Hale, who was under a doctor’s care for an emotional disorder, bought seven firearms from five local gun stores between October 2020 and June 2022.  Hale used three of them in Monday’s shooting.

Repeal of Pistol Purchase Permits. Guns and their provenance were a leading local news story this week as the General Assembly repealed the State’s pistol permit law, formerly codified in G.S. 14-402 through 14-405 and 14-407.1. See S.L. 2023-8 (S 41). Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the legislation, which was supported by the NC Sheriff’s Association, on the basis that its elimination of background checks as a precondition of sale “will allow more domestic abusers and other dangerous people to own handguns and reduces law enforcement’s ability to stop them from committing crimes.” The repeal does not alter the requirement that licensed dealers conduct the background check required by federal law before permitting a buyer to purchase a gun. But the bill’s detractors argued that pistol purchase permits helped close a loophole in those checks, which may not bar persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes in North Carolina from purchasing a firearm for reasons Jeff explains here.) The General Assembly overrode the veto in party-line votes. House speaker Tim Moore said the pistol permit system was outdated and that the measures the legislature approved were “long-standing goals of Second Amendment advocates in our state.”

Breakroom video leads to release of man arrested in fatal stabbing. Knightdale Police arrested a 43-year-old man on Tuesday for fatally stabbing his coworker, Tejuan Gilbert, in the breakroom of the Core-Mark distribution center. But the man (who has not been named) was released after authorities reviewed video footage showing that Gilbert, unprovoked, had attacked the man from behind with a metal rod, striking him in the head and knocking him to the ground. After a struggle, the man eventually overpowered Gilbert, who was fatally stabbed in the process.

Adnan Syed’s murder conviction reinstated. The Maryland appeals court reinstated the conviction of Syed, of Serial podcast fame, following an appeal from the family of Hae Min Lee, the high schooler whose death led to the murder charges. Lee’s family argued that they were not properly notified of the October 2022 hearing at which a judge overturned Syed’s murder conviction. Following that hearing, Baltimore prosecutors dropped charges against Syed, citing the results of new DNA testing that supported his innocence. The latest appeals court ruling means that a new hearing on Syed’s conviction will be held and that Syed, as the Baltimore Sun reports, “abruptly goes from being an exoneree to a convicted murderer.” Syed’s attorneys plan to appeal, and the ruling does not require that Syed return immediately to prison.

Oh, yes, I nearly forgot. Former president Donald Trump was indicted yesterday. That’s kind of big news in the criminal justice world since it is the first time in American history that a current or former president will face criminal charges. The indictment, returned by a Manhattan, New York, grand jury was filed under seal. It follows the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation of the former president’s alleged role in paying hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election.