criminal justice

criminal justice

Law and the Courts News Top Story

Committee pitches juvenile justice funding as legislative session begins

The proposals were included within the final report written by the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee. A committee of juvenile justice experts has recommended legislators approve a step pay plan for employees who work at juvenile detention centers. The proposal comes a month after Deputy Secretary of Juvenile Justice Billy Lassiter told committee members North Carolina’s juvenile detention centers were understaffed and over-capacity...

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A New Year’s resolution for North Carolina: Overhaul the state’s cruel and archaic criminal sentencing system

Gov. Roy Cooper delivered some welcome holiday presents recently to a handful of people who had served long sentences in state prison. Six were granted clemency and an early release, while four others who’d previously served long sentences received full pardons. All 10 appear to have turned their lives around and more than paid their debts to a state in which criminal penalties – particularly those that relate to drug possession and sales – are incredibly severe.

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Monday numbers: A look at juvenile justice in North Carolina, three years into Raise the Age

Nearly 13,500 teenagers had their crimes adjudicated in the juvenile justice system; under the old model these youths would have pled their cases in adult courts.  In 2019 North Carolina followed the rest of the country’s lead  and raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction for nonviolent crimes to age 18, meaning many 16- and 17-year old children would be spared punishment in the adult justice system.

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Staffing shortages at NC juvenile detention centers: So bad that, ‘If you show up to work today, you get a bonus.’

Detention centers are badly overcrowded and under-resourced, according to a committee presentation last week. There are so many vacant positions in North Carolina’s juvenile detention centers that officials are using the money that would pay the salaries of new employees as an incentive to get existing staffers to report to their shifts.

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They spent years in prison for seriously hurting a child. Decades later, the boy died from the abuse. Can they now be charged with murder?

State Court of Appeals weighs the power of constitutional protection against double jeopardy The Court of Appeals published a pair of opinions Tuesday holding that two people could be charged with murder for brutalizing a child 25 years ago — even if they had already been convicted of child abuse for the same act of violence in the late ‘90s.

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Worries abound for criminal justice under a Republican state Supreme Court

Many advocates for reform are concerned about the high court’s rightward shift. Republicans took control of the North Carolina Supreme Court last week, winning two seats and flipping the court from a 4-3 Democratic majority to a 5-2 Republican one. The Republican majority is guaranteed through at least 2028. That could mean more gerrymandered maps that favor the GOP, a reversal of the landmark Leandro ruling that would lead to a massive increase in education funding across North Carolina, and further restricted access to abortion.

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Law and the Courts Top Story

Court of Appeals backs suspension for lawyer who swindled wrongfully convicted Black men

A three-judge North Carolina Court of Appeals panel on Tuesday upheld the State Bar’s decision to suspend the license of an attorney who took hundreds of thousands of dollars from two Black men with intellectual disabilities who served more than 30 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit. The unanimous ruling was authored by Judge Allegra Collins and joined by Judges Richard Dietz and Jeffery Carpenter.

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Dispatches from the North Carolina court system: The cash bail-jail paradox

Jordan needed an unsecured bond, or he wasn’t getting out of jail. The 24-year-old Black man had been arrested on Oct. 8, charged with possessing drug paraphernalia, trespassing, resisting a public officer, and failing to show up for a court hearing, allegations that kept him in jail on a bond he couldn’t afford. The couple thousand dollars it would cost to get that bond threatened his livelihood, a job at a pizza shop. Jordan was caught in a paradox familiar to people locked up pretrial in a money bail system: unable to work because he was in jail, but unable to get out of jail because he can’t work.

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Monday numbers: New report details how much more likely Black people are to be wrongly convicted than whites

More than 3,200 people have been exonerated since 1989. Over half of them are Black. Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were sentenced to death in 1984 for the rape and murder of 11-year-old Sabrina Buie in Robeson County. The teenagers — half-brothers who were 19 and 15 years old, both Black and with cognitive disabilities — confessed under pressure from police, but there wasn’t physical evidence connecting them to the crime.

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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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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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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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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

Retailers urge NC legislators to crack down on organized retail crime

Pandemic, opioids, rising prices blamed for sharp rise in retail thefts "In retail, we're in business to sell, they are in business to steal." Craig Dowdle, the regional investigation manager for Lowe's Home Improvement, told state legislators Tuesday that Organized Retail Crime has been rising steadily since the pandemic.

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