A few weeks ago I participated in a seminar on digital evidence, and one of the topics we discussed was cell phone records (subscriber information, call detail records, historical location data, etc.). That’s not surprising, since the widespread use of cell phones has made these records an increasingly common and important tool in criminal cases. Location data can help prove that the defendant was in the victim’s house at the time of the murder, call logs can help prove the co-conspirators were in regular contact with each other, and so on.
What did surprise me was when I asked a group of 75+ prosecutors how often they have used an affidavit to authenticate these kinds of records and get them admitted into evidence, without the need for live testimony by a witness from the company? Only one prosecutor had ever done so, and that was in a case with a pro se defendant. There seemed to be a lot of confusion about (i) whether this was even possible, (ii) old rules vs. new rules, and (iii) state court vs. federal court, so I thought this post would be a good opportunity to help clear things up. Continue reading →
Editor’s note: This is the first blog post by Jonathan Holbrook, who began working with the School of Government last July as our first Prosecutor Educator. Jonathan knows the field, having worked as a prosecutor for nearly 10 years, first in state court with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office, and then in federal court with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Please welcome him to the School – and to the blog.
I am truly honored to join the staff here at the School of Government, and excited to have this opportunity to help set the course for the new position of Prosecutor Educator. Over time, my role here will likely expand to include more training and advising, similar to the great work Phil Dixon currently does with defense attorneys in his capacity as the Defender Educator. But for now, my primary focus is on a large project related to the Prosecutors’ Trial Manual, which has not been updated since 2012. The manual is one of many works written and maintained by long-time faculty member Bob Farb, who retired from the School of Government last year. Rather than simply update and re-publish the existing manual, the School of Government (in consultation with an advisory committee of veteran prosecutors) is converting that material into a robust and searchable online knowledge base of North Carolina criminal procedure. This new resource will preserve the rich content and extensive research from the current manual, but in a format that is much easier to update, search, and navigate.
One of the benefits of engaging in this top-to-bottom revision of the old manual has been learning and re-learning all the nuts and bolts – and hidden gems – of North Carolina criminal procedure. The rest of this post focuses on an interesting topic that recently caught my eye, and which I think might be surprising to some readers as well.
Continue reading →