Archives by: Kelan Lyons

Kelan Lyons

About the author

Kelan Lyons, Investigative Reporter, joined Policy Watch in June 2022. Before moving to North Carolina, he wrote about the criminal legal system for the Connecticut Mirror. He has written extensively about an array of systemic issues within the justice system, including solitary confinement, money bail, racial disparities among the incarcerated population, and the ways people with mental illnesses can become ensnared in the legal system. He has also worked at newsrooms in Utah and Texas.

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Kelan Lyons's articles and posts

Law and the Courts Top Story

Dispatches from the North Carolina court system: jury duty in Hoke County

The prospective jurors started arriving after lunch. They walked, single file, through the metal detector at the entrance of the Hoke County Courthouse, past the county sheriff’s deputy to check in with the court staff. Some spelled their names, others asked how long this would all take, but they each walked up the stairs or took the elevator to the old courthouse’s second floor, to report for jury duty in the Superior Court courtroom. Each of the roughly 60 people would be screened by defense attorneys and prosecutors to sit for a jury in a criminal trial that would likely last several days. The defendant was a white man in his 30s accused of driving under the influence and hitting and killing a Fort Bragg solider with his car in 2017.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Dispatches from the North Carolina court system: Guilford County’s ‘jail docket’

Shaletta Ryans went to court Monday afternoon without even having to leave jail. She appeared in a Guilford County courtroom via a live video feed, her image beaming onto five computer screens in front of prosecutors, a public defender and a judge. She didn’t say much, but the courtroom’s speakers rattled with the sound of chains, the cacophonous soundtrack of jail.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

Dispatches from the North Carolina court system: A family apart

Cases were moving slowly through Courtroom 2A on Monday morning. Several of those whose names were written on a criminal docket pinned to the wall in the lobby grumbled that they had to get a move on. They didn’t want to spend their whole day at the Chatham County Courthouse. The room got quiet when District Court Judge Samantha Cabe called Garima Sinha’s name. Sinha took her place beside her public defender, Melissa A. French, and stood in front of a microphone, her back to what would soon become a rapt audience. Sinha had been charged with assault and battery and injury to real property, both misdemeanors, and assault by strangulation, a felony.

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Education News Top Story

Monday numbers: Stopping school shootings before they happen

Behind state efforts to prevent targeted mass shootings After the massacre of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, ...
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Law and the Courts News Top Story

‘The End of Isolation Tour’ and the push to end solitary confinement in North Carolina prisons

How three performances of a play relate to efforts to end solitary in North Carolina It’s the sound of jangling keys that reminds Craig Waleed of his time in solitary confinement. “That brings me back to being in there and hearing the keys jingle next to the cell door, thinking, ‘OK then, they’ll let me out. Today's the day I get out,’” Waleed said.

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Top Story

Two men serving life sentences lobby lawmakers to expand parole eligibility

"People with no reason to change will not change.” Phillip Vance Smith II first met Craig Wissink in 2004, toward the beginning of the life sentences the men were serving for separate murders. Smith thought Wissink was a friendly guy, the type who was always trying to make those around him laugh. The pair lost touch for about 10 years, a gap in a friendship common among imprisoned men subjected to unanticipated transfers to other correctional facilities.

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Defending Democracy Law and the Courts News Top Story

Disenfranchised no more, ‘Second Chance voters’ can register and cast ballots — for now

Allowing those on probation and parole to vote marks the largest expansion of voting rights in North Carolina since the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Daquan Peters didn’t waste any time registering to vote on Wednesday. He hadn’t been fast enough last year, during a 10-day window between court proceedings where people like him, those who were home after spending time imprisoned for a felony but still on probation or parole, were briefly re-enfranchised.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

PW special report: Two recent state Supreme Court decisions could alter NC’s juvenile justice landscape

After growing up behind bars, many who committed serious crimes when they were children now have a chance at parole  James Ryan Kelliher first tried to kill himself when he was 10 years old. A high school dropout who had been abused by his father, Kelliher spent all his time getting or staying high by the time he was 17, robbing people to support his addiction.

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Law and the Courts News Top Story

Monday numbers: Gun violence in North Carolina, and one county’s efforts to address the crisis 

The shooting at the school convinced county leaders it was time to do something.  In August 2021, on his first day back in class after a suspension, a 15-year-old student at New Hanover High School shot one of his peers in the hand and leg.

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Health News Policy Watch Investigates Top Story

Medicaid expansion would help people incarcerated in jails and prisons — the ‘black hole of the mental health system’

Thousands of people currently cycling in and out of jails and prisons are among the roughly 600,000 who would get health coverage under Medicaid expansion, potentially transforming North Carolina’s justice system. Dorel Clayton became unmoored after his mother died of ovarian cancer, in 2001.

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