News Roundup

Published for NC Criminal Law on May 12, 2023.

In U.S. Supreme Court news, the Court recently stayed the execution of Richard Glossip. Mr. Glossip has spent 26 years on death row in Oklahoma. This was his ninth scheduled execution date. The state Attorney General agreed with Mr. Glossip that a stay was appropriate, categorizing the sentence as a “grave injustice” amid questions about the integrity of the conviction. The stay was obtained from the Court after the state parole board declined to recommend clemency and other state remedies were exhausted. Read on for more criminal law news.

Diaz-Tomas at the Supreme Court? Readers may recall the decision in State v. Diaz-Tomas, 382 N.C. 640 (2022). As Shea discussed here, the case holds that prosecutors are not obligated to reinstate a case that has been dismissed with leave and that a trial court has no authority to order reinstatement of the case over the State’s objection. A petition for certiorari has been filed at the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing in large part that the case violates the Speedy Trial Clause principles articulated in Klopfer v. North Carolina, 386 U.S. 213 (1967). The Court recently ordered North Carolina to respond. The Cato Institute also recently filed an amicus brief in support of the petitioner. The State’s response is currently due on May 15. You can read the petition and amicus brief (as well as the State’s response, once it’s filed) here.

Fees and Fines. The U.S. Department of Justice recently released a “Dear Colleague” letter to state courts and juvenile justice departments concerning the imposition of fees and fines in criminal and related cases. The letter reminds court system actors of their constitutional and statutory obligations to ensure that monetary obligations are imposed and collected in a fair and just manner. Among other recommendations, the letter urges courts to conduct a meaningful review of a person’s ability to pay before imposing such obligations.

Santos Charged. Speaking of the Justice Department, it handed down a 13-count indictment against U.S. Representative George Santos. The charges include wire fraud, money laundering, theft of public funds, and lying to the House of Representatives. According to AP News, Santos has so far resisted calls to resign his post and has indicated he intends to continue campaigning for reelection.

New Georgia Law on Removal of Prosecutors. Sticking with AP News, Georgia recently passed a law creating a commission with the authority to remove or discipline prosecutors deemed to be in dereliction of their duties.  Among other things, the law directs prosecutors to consider every case for which probable cause exists and prohibits prosecutors from categorically refusing to prosecute certain crimes, such as marijuana or abortion-related offenses. According to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, the law is aimed at reigning in “far-left prosecutors.” Critics of the law claim that it improperly interferes with prosecutorial discretion, among other objections. Efforts to pass similar legislation are underway in other states.

Trouble in Texas. It has been a rough time in Texas lately. Last Saturday, nine people were killed and seven injured in a mass shooting in Allen, Texas. As Time reports, this was the 199th mass shooting in the country this year (defined as an incident involving the death or injury of four or more people). The suspect was killed on the scene by a police officer who happened to be in the area. Last Sunday, a driver crashed into a group of people, killing eight and injuring 10. According to CNN, the suspect has an extensive criminal record. He has been charged with multiple counts of manslaughter. This all comes on the heels of another mass shooting in Cleveland, Texas, on April 29th, where five people were killed. After initially eluding capture, the suspect was apprehended last Tuesday, as NBC reports.

Oxford Standoff. Closer to home, an overnight standoff in Oxford, NC, resulted in the shooting of a police officer and canine, as well as the suicide of the suspect. According to news reports, both the officer and the animal are thankfully in stable condition. Neighbors of the suspect were apparently surprised by the news, with one describing him as a “nice guy.”

On a Lighter Note. A North Carolina man fled an attempted traffic stop on Tuesday and ended up running on foot into a pasture near Boone. A herd of cows led police to the suspect, resulting in his capture. According to local police: “Apparently cows do not want suspected criminals loitering in their pasture and quickly assisted our officers by leading them directly to where the suspect was hiding.” Boone police have indicated they plan to explore further use of bovine tracking in the future.

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