This post summarizes published criminal and related decisions released by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals during March 2022. Decisions that may be of interest to state practitioners are summarized monthly. Previous Fourth Circuit case summaries are available here.
In an earlier bulletin, I discussed the possibility that state habeas petitions could emerge as a remedy for medically vulnerable prisoners in North Carolina, as they have in other states (most notably New York). While it remains too early to tell how North Carolina courts will respond, there have been some important developments in recent weeks, as a number of prisoners have asked courts to consider their petitions. This post explores the status of two of those cases and related legal issues regarding the viability of state habeas as a remedy for prisoners uniquely endangered by COVID-19.
Back in December, the Fourth Circuit ruled on a habeas petition of Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald, denying relief. The case has been winding its way through federal courts for more than 40 years. I wanted to flag it for readers in this post, both as one of the more notorious North Carolina murder cases and as an opportunity to examine the legal principles of actual innocence claims in federal habeas. Fair warning, this post contains some minimal (but grisly) details of the killings.
Last Monday, North Carolina’s newly-elected sheriffs were sworn into office. A key issue in several of the campaigns was whether the candidates would or would not continue to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. Incoming Sheriff Garry McFadden announced that he will be ending Mecklenburg County’s participation in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) “287(g) program.” Incoming Sheriff Gerald Baker in Wake County likewise pledged to end his office’s participation in the 287(g) program, and incoming Sheriff Clarence Birkhead in Durham County announced that his office would no longer honor any “detainer requests” from ICE.
Coincidentally, on the same day that those elections were being held, the Court of Appeals decided Chavez v. Carmichael, __ N.C. App. __ (Nov. 6, 2018), which analyzed whether a defendant can challenge immigration detainers in state court on habeas corpus grounds. In addition to answering that central question, the Chavez decision also helps to clarify the sometimes-overlooked distinction between the 287(g) program as a whole and ICE detainers in particular, and it points out an important statutory limitation on the extent to which custodial law enforcement agencies may “decline to investigate” the immigration or residency status of a person in custody.
Although the General Assembly has finally wrapped up for the year, there’s still been a fair bit of news lately that may be of interest to readers of this blog. 1. First and foremost, the United States Supreme Court recently took the virtually unprecedented step of ordering a hearing on an “original” habeas petition — … Read more