News Roundup

On Tuesday, former President Donald Trump was indicted for a third time. Trump previously was indicted in New York state court for allegations that he paid hush-money to an adult firm star days before the 2016 presidential election. The second indictment, filed in federal court in Florida, relates to the discovery of classified documents in Trump’s home after he left the White House. Some experts deem the latest indictment, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, as the most consequential. Trump is accused of attempting to remain in power, despite having lost the 2020 election, by subverting election results. The indictment alleges that Trump engaged in unlawful conspiracies that “built on the widespread mistrust [Trump] was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud” and that “targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election.” Trump appeared in court on Thursday and entered a plea of not guilty.

Keeping reading for more criminal law news.

Shooter in Pittsburgh synagogue massacre sentenced to death. Robert Bowers, the gunman who killed 11 worshippers and wounded six others at in the Tree of Life Chapel in 2018 was sentenced to death in federal court on Wednesday. Bowers was convicted in June of 63 charges, including 11 capital counts of obstruction of free exercise of religious beliefs resulting in death and 11 capital counts of use of a firearm to commit murder during and in relation to a crime of violence. CNN reports that this is the first federal death sentence imposed under the Biden administration, which has put a moratorium on executions pending review of the Justice Department’s capital case policies and procedures.

Idaho mother sentenced to life imprisonment for so-called “zombie murders.” Lori Vallow Daybell was convicted in Idaho state court in May of killing her 16-year-old daughter and seven-year-old son and for conspiring to murder Tammy Daybell, then-wife of Chad Daybell, a man Lori Vallow Daybell married weeks after Tammy Daybell died in her sleep. The story was featured last year in the Netflix documentary: Sins of Our Mother.

On Monday, Lori Vallow Daybell was sentenced to multiple fixed life terms of imprisonment with no possibility of parole, with the terms set to run consecutively. Prosecutors said that Lori Vallow Daybell and Chad Daybell held arcane religious beliefs, portraying themselves as religious figures called James and Elena and purporting to be able to detect whether a person was under the thrall of dark energy. A friend of Lori Vallow Daybell’s reported that she thought her children were zombies. The sentencing judge said he believed that Lori Vallow Daybell murdered her children to remove them as obstacles and to profit financially and that she justified the killings by “going down a bizarre, religious rabbit hole.” Chad Daybell also faces murder charges in the three deaths. His trial is scheduled for April 2024.

Lori Vallow Daybell’s legal saga is far from over. Prosecutors in Arizona are now seeking to extradite her for trial on conspiracy murder charges related to the killing of her previous husband, Charles Vallow, and attempting to murder another relative. Lori Vallow Daybell already has some familiarity with the extradition process, having been extradited from Hawaii, where she wed Chad Daybell, to stand trial in Idaho.

Speaking of extradition, WRAL has the story here on efforts by Utah authorities to extradite from Scotland an American fugitive who allegedly faked his own death to avoid prosecution for rape. A judge in Scotland ruled Wednesday that the man whom he called “as dishonest and deceitful as he is evasive and manipulative” may be extradited. You’ll have to read the story for all the plot twists and turns but it too has the makings of a Netflix special. U.S. authorities say the man’s legal name is Nicholas Alahverdia, but he is known in Scotland as Nicholas Rossi. The man himself insists that he is an Irish orphan named Arthur Knight who has never been to America. The judge dismissed the man’s claims of mistaken identity as fanciful. During a hearing in June, the man said the muscles in his legs had atrophied so much that he needed a wheelchair and couldn’t lift his arms over his head. Yet a doctor said the man’s legs were strong and athletic and that she had seen video of the man using them to kick a prison officer in the face. The next step in the case is for Scottish government ministers to review the judge’s ruling to determine whether to issue an extradition order.

Testing by State Crime Lab provides breakthrough in cold case. WXII reports that a suspect has been charged with first-degree-murder for the 1994 killing of Edward Ware in Reidsville, NC, after the State Crime Lab retested old evidence using new technology. The man charged with the murder is Johnny Ware, Edward Ware’s nephew, and he is currently imprisoned in Georgia for a different homicide. The State Crime Lab reportedly tested the evidence using STRmix, software that is marketed as being able to assist investigations using DNA evidence that was previously considered too complex to interpret.

It’s August. Is there an update on automatic expunctions? You may recall that last year, the legislature halted the automatic expungement of dismissed charges, not guilty verdicts, and findings of not responsible pending stakeholder recommendations regarding issues that arose in connection with the implementation of G.S. 15A-146(a4). See S.L. 2022-47 (H 607). That pause was set to expire August 1, 2023.  The pause is still in place, however, as it was extended by S.L. 2023-103 (H 193) until July 1, 2024.

Thanks for reading.  I hope you have a safe and relaxing weekend.