News Roundup

Multiple news outlets, including the Washington Post and New York Times reported yesterday that former President Donald Trump has been federally indicted in connection with the discovery of classified documents in his Mar-a-Lago home after he left the White House. The charges have been called a “seismic event” that puts the nation in an “extraordinary position” since not only is Trump the first former president to ever be federally charged, but he also is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The latest charges add to the former president’s legal woes as he was indicted in March in New York state court in connection with allegations that he paid hush-money to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election. As big as this news is, it is just one of the many criminal law headlines from the past week.

Florida woman shot and killed by her neighbor. Last Friday in Ocala, Florida, a 35-year-old black woman was allegedly shot and killed by her 58-year-old white neighbor. The AP story is here. Sheriff Billy Woods said that Ajike Owens was shot through the front door of her neighbor Susan Lorincz’s apartment moments after Owens approached the door. Owens went to Lorincz’s apartment after Lorincz reportedly yelled at Owens’ children as they played nearby and threw a pair of skates that hit one of them. Owens’ nine-year-old son was standing beside his mother when she was fatally shot.

Several days elapsed between the shooting and Lorincz’s arrest on Tuesday. Sheriff Woods said that Florida’s stand your ground law prevented him from arresting Lorincz unless he could prove she did not act in self-defense. On Tuesday, Woods said the investigation, which included eyewitness statements, established that  this was not a stand your ground case but “simply a killing.”

Deadly shooting at high school graduation. Sadly, the Ocala shooting was not the only fatal east coast shooting to make national news this week. NBC News reports that an 18-year-old who had just graduated and his father were killed on Tuesday in a shooting after a high school graduation ceremony in Richmond, Virginia. Five others were injured. A 19-year-old man, who authorities believe knew at least one of the victims, has been arrested.

Trial against school resource officer in Parkland. Back in Florida, criminal trial proceedings against former Broward County Sheriff’s Deputy Scot Peterson began this week. Peterson was the school resource officer on duty at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida the day in 2018 when 17 people – 14 high school students and three staff members — were killed by gunman Nikolas Cruz. Prosecutors say Peterson failed to follow his active shooter training when he stayed outside the school during the massacre. Peterson is charged with multiple counts of felony child neglect and culpable negligence as well as with perjury based in part on telling investigators he heard only two or three gunshots after arriving at the scene. Peterson has said he didn’t enter the school building because he couldn’t tell where the gunshots were coming from. CNN’s coverage of the case is here.

Discipline recommended for judge in Cruz case. In other news related to the Parkland shooting, Florida’s Judicial Qualifications Commission concluded on Monday that the judge who presided over the trial of Nikolas Cruz should be publicly reprimanded for showing bias toward the prosecution, allowing victims’ families to make vitriolic statements to Cruz’s attorneys, and for allowing her emotions to overcome her judgement. The Associated Press reports that the Florida Supreme Court will make any final decision about discipline, but that, in any event, Scherer, 46, has announced that she will retire from the bench at the end of this month.

A beary good photographer. We have spilled a good amount of proverbial ink in this forum writing about government surveillance, ranging from tracking devices to pole cameras. Until this week, however, I had never heard of authorities affixing a surveillance camera to a wild animal. But that is precisely what some property owners accuse the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) of doing. The Volokh Conspiracy reports on a lawsuit filed by property owners who say DEEP attached a camera to a bear who government officials knew came on the plaintiffs’ property and then released the animal near their property. They say the camera-wearing bear came within 200 years of their house and they believe the camera recorded images of the interior of the dwelling. Click here for the full story and a photo of the furry operative.

The Tar Heels are always a good bet. Yesterday the North Carolina General Assembly ratified House Bill 347, a bill that legalizes gambling on sports beginning in January 2024. WRAL reports that Governor Cooper is expected to sign the bill into law.