News Roundup

The usual Friday news roundup was displaced last week by an extremely important post. But the news itself just kept coming, including the following:

1. The General Assembly passed the Forensic Sciences Act, a bill that will reform the workings of the SBI crime lab. A News and Observer story about the bill is here, and summarizes some of the changes as follows: “The lab, formerly known as the SBI Crime Laboratory, will be known as the North Carolina Crime Laboratory . . . . The lab must meet the highest international standards, and individual scientists and analysts must be certified in their field and receive regular training and competency tests.” The bill itself is here. It has been signed by the Governor, and for the most part, is effective immediately. Another bill has been introduced that would remove the lab from SBI control, as discussed here; the text of that bill is here.

2. Fallout from the Duke lacrosse case continues. The Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports here that MDNC Judge James Beaty “declined to dismiss the players’ claims that their constitutional rights were violated” by former District Attorney Mike Nifong and the City of Durham. In a coincidence, former accuser Crystal Mangum has just been charged with assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. The News and Observer reports here that she is alleged to have stabbed her boyfriend with a kitchen knife. The story observes that last year, “police accused Mangum of slashing the vehicle tires of her [then] boyfriend, Milton Walker, smashing the windshield with a vacuum cleaner and setting fire to a pile of his clothes in a bathtub while the police and her three children were in her apartment.” She was convicted of lesser offenses in that incident.

3. The School of Government is hosting a training event for new prosecutors this week. Coincidentally, one of the new prosecutors in our group is featured in this News and Observer article about mid-career professionals moving into law. The story does note that law school is expensive and time-consuming and that “[f]inding a good job is a challenge in this economic climate.” The new prosecutors in our group have beaten the odds, so kudos to them.

4. Speaking of prosecutors, this Denver Post article reports on a prosecutor who “has created an unusual incentive for her felony prosecutors, paying them bonuses if they achieve a predetermined standard for conviction rates at trial.” Encouraging prosecutors to try cases, and to try them well, may be a laudable goal. But this may not be a good way to accomplish it. Crime and Consequences argues here that, inter alia, “the best trial lawyer wins the toughest cases, not necessarily the most cases. If the manager assigns the toughest cases to the best trial lawyers and gives the easy ones to the rookies, as he should, the rookie might well have a better win rate than the star.”

5. Finally, a few quick tidbits. The Orange County Register reports here about a serial killer who has filed lawsuits from prison alleging that “he was occasionally denied television in the jail dayroom, denied access to his subscription to Playboy magazine, and that he did not get two candy bars one Thanksgiving when other inmates were given candy bars.” Sentencing Law and Policy has a story about incorrigibility that begins “[a] 41-year-old woman who was in court this morning to be sentenced for prescription drug forgery allegedly presented a forged doctor’s note in an attempt to delay the proceedings.” Finally, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog has this story about Willie Nelson and a marijuana possession charge he’s facing in Texas. Apparently, a prosecutors has offered to “let the performer plead guilty to a misdemeanor if he pays a small fine . . . [and] come[s] to court and sing[s] ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.'” (But note this later post, indicating that the performance would not be required and that the prosecutor was just “trying to be funny.”)

5 thoughts on “News Roundup”

  1. Crystal Mangum has been bad news from the start. She certainly has issues that need to be dealt with. She should have been held more liable for her false accusations against the Duke Lacrosse players to start with and not the prosecutors.

  2. Speaking of prosecutors, this Denver Post article reports on a prosecutor who “has created an unusual incentive for her felony prosecutors, paying them bonuses if they achieve a predetermined standard for conviction rates at trial.”

    I would think this could violate some ethical rules. As far as I know you can’t take contingency contracts on criminal cases – this is essentially what the prosecutor is doing.

  3. It seems like every year or two, a new proposal comes along for a forensic lab. There always seems to be a name change involved but the same policies seem to prevail. Hopefully the lab will actually consist of certified individuals whose background will qualify them as expert witnesses in court instead of resulting in more violations of Melendez-Diaz and the like.


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