Law

Julius Chambers
Ferguson, Chambers and Sumter

    

Julius Chambers has been a fixture on North Carolina’s legal scene for decades, helping lead the battle for civil rights and playing an instrumental role in the desegregation of Charlotte/Mecklenburg schools.

He died last Friday at 76.

Julius Chambers
Ferguson, Chambers and Sumter

Friends and the state's legal community are honoring the life of Julius Chambers who died last week.  He was 76 years old. 

Chambers was active in the 1960s Civil Rights movement, founding the law firm that became North Carolina's first integrated practice.  A statement from the Ferguson, Chambers and Sumter firm said Chambers argued eight cases before the U.S. Supreme Court and won all of them. 

Photos from the Million Hoodies Union Square protest against Trayvon Martin's shooting death in Sanford, Florida.
David Shankbone

On Saturday, July 13, George Zimmerman was pronounced not guilty of second degree murder for the killing of Trayvon Martin. The jury acquitted him on the grounds of self-defense. What does self-defense mean in a case like this?

Before the trial began, Judge Deborah Nelson forbade use of the term “racial profiling” in the courtroom. How does race play into the criminal justice system? 

Host Frank Stasio speaks with a panel of experts to discuss these questions and what the Trayvon Martin case in Florida means for us in North Carolina. His guests are:

Central Prison
Dept. of Public Safety

State prison inmates will soon find it tougher to make home visits as their sentences wind down.  Governor Pat McCrory ordered a review of the program the Department of Public Safety has used for over four decades to reacclimate inmates to life outside prison walls.  He approved four recommendations he and DPS leaders believe may cut back on parolees returning to prison. 

The United States Supreme Court
Jeff Kubina

Two landmark decisions handed down by the United States Supreme Court last week could have serious implications for North Carolina. Justices struck down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, leaving southern states free to pursue changes to election law without prior federal approval. The court also struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, saying that same-sex couples are entitled to the same benefits as heterosexual couples.

City of Fayetteville Police Department
bethebadge.com

The FBI says Fayetteville has the fifth highest rate of property crime in America, according to analysis of crimes rates for large cities in 2012. The figures come in the same week the Fayetteville City Council voted to pass up a tax increase that would have raised money for 15 new police officers.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is the keynote speaker at this year's meeting of the NC Bar Association.
Stephen Masker / Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is in North Carolina this week for the state Bar Association's annual meeting. 

Exoneree Orlando Boquete
David Persoff

In 1982, a woman notified the police that two men had broken into her home, and one of them had sexually assaulted her. She described the sexual offender as a Latino man wearing no shirt and with no hair.  After the police responded to the call, they found a group of Cuban-Americans in the parking lot of a convenience store. A man named Orlando Boquete was among them, the only one who wore no shirt and had little hair, although he did have a large, black mustache. 

The police arrested Boquete right there and took him to the victim’s home, where she identified him, from 20 feet away in a police cruiser at night, as the perpetrator. After she identified him that night, she added to her testimony that the perpetrator had a mustache.

Boquete testified at the trial that he was with his family watching TV at the time of the crime. Afterwards, he went to the convenience store with his cousins, where the police picked him up.  The jury didn’t buy it. Another piece of evidence ignored at the trial was blood type. The fluids found on the victim’s clothing revealed that the perpetrator had Type A blood. Boquete and the victim are both Type O, but the forensic analyst who testified at the trial did not mention this crucial fact.

Boquete was charged and convicted of sexual battery and burglary in 1983 and sent to prison.

Eric Rudolph
FBI

At one time, Eric Rudolph was one of the most wanted men in the country. He was responsible for a series of bombings in Georgia and Alabama, including at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.


Exoneree James Waller
David Persoff

“The worst thing you can be is a sex offender because it’s dirt that you can’t wash off.”

Those words were spoken by James Waller in an interview with WUNC at the Innocence Network Conference in Charlotte in April. Waller spent decades in prison and on parole after being wrongfully convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy. When he went to jail, he was 23. When he was exonerated in 2007, he was 50.

Exoneree Christopher Scott
David Persoff

Update 12/31/13: This story was mentioned in a Huffington Post list of notable prison stories from 2013. All the stories from this series are available for you to read and hear.

When Christopher Scott walked out of the Dallas courthouse a free man after 12 years of wrongful imprisonment, Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins declared that it might be the biggest case yet for his office.  Not only had they exonerated two people (the other was Claude Simmons Jr.) involved in the same murder case, but they did it without DNA evidence. Watkins said that the case would likely cause DA offices across the country to take non-DNA exoneration requests a little more seriously.

Sameer Abdel-Khalek

Across the country, 306 wrongfully convicted inmates have been exonerated because of DNA evidence. The number of people exonerated through other means is hard to calculate, since not all states keep records of exonerees.  It might be close to 1,000. But that could be a gross undercount. Over 100 exonerees and many others gathered in Charlotte this past weekend for the 2013 Innocence Network Conference.  There, The State of Things host Frank Stasio sat down with two exonerees and two legal professionals to learn more about their stories.

Exoneree Marvin Anderson
David Persoff

Marvin Anderson was exonerated in 2001 after spending 15 years in a Virginia prison and four years on parole for crimes he did not commit. His exoneration was granted after DNA evidence excluded him from the crimes, and he was the 99th person in the country to be exonerated due to DNA evidence gathered post-conviction. But had some evidence been taken more seriously at his original trial, Anderson never would have had to serve prison time for someone else’s crimes in the first place.

Exoneree Jeffrey Deskovic
David Persoff

Jeffrey Deskovic was 16 when one of his female classmates, Angela Correa, was found murdered in the woods in their hometown in upstate New York.  He says didn’t know her well, but she was always friendly to him in the school hallways.  At the girl’s funeral, Jeffrey broke down in heavy sobs and visited her wake multiple times.  It was there that some people started to suspect that he might have had something to do with the murder.

Johnnie Lindsey was exonerated after 26 years in prison.
David Persoff

In 1981, a 27-year-old white woman was riding her bike when she was attacked and raped by a shirtless African American man. A rape kit was collected, and a line-up of potential perpetrators was assembled for the victim to review, but she did not identify anyone. A year later, the police mailed her six photos from a new line-up. There were two men without shirts. The victim picked out Johnnie Lindsey, one of the shirtless men, as the perpetrator, and in 1983 he was charged with the crime.

Exoneree Julie Baumer
David Persoff

When Julie Baumer rushed her new-born nephew Philipp to the hospital on October 3, 2003, she had no idea what was wrong. He couldn’t keep his formula down for more than a few hours and wouldn’t take a bottle. Philipp was 6 weeks old and has spent the first week of his life in the neonatal intensive-care-unit after a difficult delivery. His mother, Julie’s sister, struggled with drug addiction and had already given up one child for adoption. Not wanting to see another child leave the family, Julie had offered to help care for her sister’s infant.

Exoneree Charles Chatman spent 27 years in prison an innocent person.
David Persoff

One of the longest prison sentences ever served by an innocent person was done by Charles Chatman of Dallas County Texas. Chatman, a black man, was wrongfully convicted of raping a white woman in 1981 and sentenced to 99 years in prison. He served nearly 27 years before he was exonerated in 2008. Although he went before the parole board multiple times during his sentence, he was never granted parole because he never admitted guilt.

Exoneree Damon Thibodeaux
David Persoff

Damon Thibodeaux has a lot to be angry about. In 1997, when he was 22 years old, he was wrongfully convicted of murder and spent the next 15 years on death row, terrified of dying for a crime he did not commit. But he’s trying not to dwell on that.  At 38 years old, he’s focusing on the years he has in front of him.

Exoneree John Thompson
David Persoff

John Thompson was a 22-year-old father of two when the New Orleans police broke down his door to arrest him. What happened next was like a nightmare. He was taken to the homicide division, where he listened to a cassette tape of a man he knew accuse him of murder. The acquaintance had sold him a gun recently, which turned out to be the murder weapon. Then, other people around the neighborhood started coming forward with additional, unrelated crime reports and pinned them on Thompson. A neighbor said that he looked like the man who robbed his children. He became a suspect for an unsolved armed robbery that had occurred weeks earlier.

Picture of marijuana plant
Colleen Danger, via flickr, Creative Commons

A new report from the ACLU says African Americans are more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in North Carolina.  The survey released today says African Americans were arrested at three times the rate of whites in 2010.  A US Health Department report from the same year showed similar rates of marijuana use among both ethnic groups nationwide. 

Picture of gavel
Flickr.com

Rockingham County is implementing a ban on all electronics at its courthouse. There have not been any major security problems that triggered the new rule. Officials call the new measure a proactive step toward keeping the courthouse safe.

An electrical power substation in Orange County.
Laura Candler

Duke Energy Progress has completed upgrades to substations in Durham and Greensboro designed to cut down on copper thefts. 

The company has changed the wire it uses, added security cameras and installed more lighting to keep thieves away.  Authorities have reported frequent copper thefts from the Parkwood Tie Station in Durham and the Main Substation in Greensboro.  The metal goes for nearly $3.00 a pound in resale.

Central Prison
Dept. of Public Safety

Advocates have filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of some state prison inmates. The eight inmates at Central Prison in Raleigh wrote letters to attorneys with the state's Prisoner Legal Services agency saying officers beat them while they were restrained.  

Gun
Megathon Charlie via Flickr, Creative Commons

Mothers across North Carolina are marching and speaking out at events tomorrow to raise awareness of how gun violence affects families. Joslyn Simms, who lost her son Rayburn to gun violence eight years ago this month, will be speaking at tomorrow's rally in Durham.

Sameer Abdel-Khalek

Across the country, 306 wrongfully convicted inmates have been exonerated because of DNA evidence. The number of people exonerated through other means is hard to calculate, since not all states keep records of exonerees.  It might be close to 1,000. But that could be a gross undercount. Over 100 exonerees and many others gathered in Charlotte this past weekend for the 2013 Innocence Network Conference.  There, The State of Things host Frank Stasio sat down with two exonerees and two legal professionals to learn more about their stories.

Pages