News Roundup

The General Assembly continues to move swiftly. Its budget is on the Governor’s desk, so legislators have turned their attention to other matters. For example, S 756, which would eliminate unsecured bond as a possible condition of release, and which would impose several limitations on pretrial release programs, passed the Senate and has moved to the House. Speaking of moving swiftly, one Senator seems to have regaled his colleagues on the Senate floor with a story about another Senator taking him for a 145 mile per hour jaunt in the latter’s muscle car. As reported here, the Highway Patrol has declined to investigate, citing G.S. 120-9, which provides: “The members shall have freedom of speech and debate in the General Assembly, and shall not be liable to impeachment or question, in any court or place out of the General Assembly, for words therein spoken.” The allegedly speedy Senator followed the tale by saying that he “plead[s] not guilty.” In other news:

1. The News and Observer ran a very detailed article about the pre-charge bargaining that apparently took place in the John Edwards case. Those interested in the back-and-forth can find the story here.

2. Forty years after President Nixon declared a war on drugs, the Global Commission on Drug Policy just issued a report, available here, arguing that “[t]he global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. . . Government expenditures on futile supply reduction strategies and incarceration displace more cost-effective and evidence-based investments in demand and harm reduction.” Of course, this argument isn’t new, but the prominence of some of the members of the Commission may give it added weight. Members include former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, former Secretary of State George Shultz, and former presidents of Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia.

3. Whatever one makes of global drug policy, things seem to be going awry in Connecticut. According to the Reason blog, possession of marijuana has just been decriminalized there, while possession of synthetic cannabinoids has just been criminalized. (It’s now a misdemeanor punishable by a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.) “For the life of me,” said one state senator, “I don’t know how I’m going to explain to my constituents one penalty for the fake pot and another for the real pot.”

4. The National Institute of Justice recently completed a study of Taser safety, concluding that they’re not likely to cause serious injury or death to “healthy, normal, nonstressed, nonintoxicated persons.” It’s easy to poke fun at that conclusion — since pretty much everyone who gets zapped is probably stressed, and a lot of them are likely intoxicated — but the report notes that other methods of subduing a person also carry risks, and that overall, Tasers are no more risky than the alternatives.

5. In Utah, Time reports, “Jason West, 38 . . . has been charged with disorderly conduct after trying to pay a $25 disputed medical bill entirely in pennies.” The basis for the criminal charge is that West “disrupted clinic routine and caused coins to spill across the counter and floor.” He’s facing a $140 fine. It would take some serious chutzpah for him to pay that in 14,000 pennies.

6. Finally, if you’re looking for online CLE, I am told that “Challenging Forensic Science Evidence” and “Sentencing in Superior Court,” two new virtual CLEs created by my colleagues who do indigent defense education, are now available here.

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