News Roundup

The grim recent news out of Norway has spawned interesting commentary this week. The New York Times summarizes the basic facts: “at least 76 people were killed in the bombing of a government building in central Oslo and a shooting rampage at a youth camp . . . . A man described as a right-wing fundamentalist Christian, Anders Behring Breivik, was seized by the police at the island and charged with both incidents.” Breivik appears to have been motivated by “what he saw as the threat of multiculturalism and Muslim immigration to the cultural and patriotic values of his country.” Recent articles suggest that Breivik, if convicted, may face a sentence of no more than 21 years; that any such sentence might be served in a prison that “looks more like a cross between an IKEA and college dorm”; and that Breivik’s actions have not changed most Norweigans’ commitment to a criminal justice system that has no death penalty and appears to emphasize rehabilitation to a much greater degree than does ours.

In other news:

1. The first merits hearing under the Racial Justice Act is scheduled for September 6 in Cumberland County. It’s already attracting national interest, as the WSJ Law Blog reports here. The Fayetteville Observer story is here.

2. Could the oppressively hot, humid weather we’ve experienced lately have a silver lining? The Washington Examiner reports here that homicides in D.C. are down during the heat wave. A professor at Florida International University suggests that “people say ‘it’s too hot to kill’ or ‘I don’t have the energy to kill.'” (Hat tip: Crime and Consequences.) Meanwhile, Sentencing Law and Policy covers a new book suggesting, based on empirical analysis, that religion (not hot weather) can reduce crime.

3. While the crime rate may be decreasing, the number of federal crimes is increasing. This astonishing Wall Street Journal piece notes that “[c]ounting them is impossible. The Justice Department spent two years trying in the 1980s, but produced only an estimate: 3,000 federal criminal offenses. The American Bar Association tried in the late 1990s, but concluded only that the number was likely much higher than 3,000. . . . ¬†A Justice spokeswoman said there was no quantifiable number.”

4. Two interesting developments recently in the federal circuits. The Third Circuit — in a case with obvious implications for North Carolina — recently held that the collection of DNA upon arrest is consistent with the Fourth Amendment. Meanwhile, the Fourth Circuit recently affirmed a conviction for obstruction of justice for a defendant who destroyed his computer hard drive after he learned that a Postal Inspector stopped by his house wanting to speak with him. (The inspector suspected that the defendant had child pornography on his computer.)

5. Finally, a case with troubling facts and an interesting First Amendment issue. The Volokh Conspiracy reports here on a New York case which dismissed, on free speech grounds, a criminal harassment charge against a defendant who left an extremely abusive, profane, and at least somewhat threatening voice mail for a prosecutor (the contents of the voice mail are detailed in the linked post). Although a trial court decision, it raises some questions of possible pertinence to similar North Carolina laws.

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