Law

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.

`Sea of Greed` is a book by Judge Douglas McCullough reflects back on the Manuel Noriega arrests.
amazon.com

  Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was a infamous figure on the international stage during the 1980s. Before he became a caricature of the "crazy" dictator, he was on the payroll of the CIA and helped the United States gain information on Cuba.

UNC Student Body President Paul Dickson introduces speaker Frank Wilkinson at the McCorkle Place wall
Jock Lauterer, unc.edu

Free speech is considered a hallmark of universities across the nation, but in the 1960s, that wasn't always true. At least not for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1963, the North Carolina legislature passed a speaker ban, prohibiting communists from speaking on campus.

Students on campus bristled at the notion that they could not listen to anybody they chose.

N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper
N.C. Democratic Party

State Attorney General Roy Cooper says he's concerned about an increase in domestic violence deaths in North Carolina last year. 

State law requires police agencies to report domestic violence deaths to the SBI.  Cooper says the 122 deaths last year are 16 more than in 2011.  He called the increase "disturbing" and urged the state to do more to stop these crimes before they happen. Wake County had the highest number of domestic violence deaths at 11, followed by Mecklenburg and Guilford counties with eight and six respectively. 

In 1976, Joseph Sledge was accused of murdering a mother and daughter in Bladen County, NC. Because of the many limits of scientific evidence at the time, hairs found at the scene of the crime were identified as "Negroid." And because Joseph Sledge was a Black man, the hairs were linked to him. Over 34 years later, the use of DNA testing has been used to prove that those hairs were not Sledges'. 

internet sweepstakes, gambling,
Pete Labrozzi / Flickr Creative Commons

Police and prosecutors are working to enforce a state Supreme Court ruling that outlaws web-based sweepstakes games.    The justices' ruling last December upheld a law passed two years earlier by the General Assembly.  Since then, sheriff's departments have had the backing of prosecutors and Attorney General Roy Cooper in conducting stings to shut down the industry.

NC Justice for Sterilization Victims Foundation
NC Dept. of Administration

Victims of North Carolina's discontinued eugenics program could get the compensation they've sought if Gov. Pat McCrory's budget proposal is accepted.  He's allocated $10 million in his spending plan to compensate past victims of forced sterilization.  The program ran from 1929 to 1974.  State researchers said during hearings in 2011 that there could be anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 victims still alive. 

North Carolina is among 39 states to reach a settlement with Google over privacy concerns about the company's Street View feature.

Google used cars equipped with cameras and antennas to capture street level photos across the country from 2008 to 2010.  Authorities say the vehicles gathered personal information over open wi-fi networks during that time. 

"In broad terms, it might include URLs of web pages and possibly partial or complete email communications,"  says Kevin Anderson, head of the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Department of Justice.

North Carolina is among 33 states that face penalties for not complying with federal regulations designed to crack down on drunken drivers. 

Winston-Salem Police armored car
Walt Unks / Winston-Salem Journal

The largest law enforcement agencies in the state are being questioned about their use of military style weapons, technology and arrest tactics.  The North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union has sent public records requests to 62 law enforcement agencies.

“One of the reasons that we were very interested in sending out these public records requests, we learned that Gaston County had a drone.  And that was a big revelation,” says state ACLU director Chris Brook.

Gov. Pat McCrory
NC Governor's Office

Governor Pat McCrory took on a major state issue following a meeting Tuesday with several North Carolina mayors.   McCrory's meeting with members of the Metro Mayors Coalition addressed issues that are critical to cities and towns trying to cope with sequestration, transportation issues and taxation.  The Governor also answered questions on a hot legislative issue.  He disagrees with immigrants' advocates who say pink driver's licenses are no more than a scarlet letter.

North Carolina driver's license
NCDOT

Some state House Democrats are speaking out against a move to create pink driver's licenses to identify young immigrants.  House Bill 184 would prohibit the state Department of Motor Vehicles from issuing the licenses to young people who are legally in this country under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.  The proposed licenses would have a pink strip at the top and the phras

The small video camera is made to attach to sunglasses.
Taser.com

The Greensboro Police Department will begin wearing small $1,100 video cameras next month in an effort to improve public trust, give officers peace of mind and capture evidence. The 125 new cameras were paid for with federal stimulus money.  

A federal safety panel will open hearings on the sinking of a tall ship during Hurricane Sandy last October.  The H-M-S Bounty set out to sea from a Connecticut port to outrun Sandy before it grew into the superstorm that slammed the northeast.  The crew had to abandon ship in 30 foot swells before the tall ship sank just off Cape Hatteras.  One crew member died.  The body of the the ship's captain was never recovered.  Coast Guard spokesman Lieutenant Mike Patterson says eight days of hearings are scheduled to find out what went wrong.

A laboratory in Burlington will begin testing forensic evidence and building a regional database of DNA evidence in an effort to help local law enforcement agencies solve crimes. The privately owned DNA: SI Labs says it can test samples and provide results much more quickly than the State Bureau of Investigation.

Laura Candler

The new $119 million Durham County Courthouse opens this month on South Dillard Street in Durham. In addition to its location beside the jail, the 11-story building incorporates an array of new features, many focusing on efficient design and energy use. The building’s internal layout includes three separate areas of circulation - one for the public, one for courthouse staff, and a secured circulation area for transporting inmates. The only place that all three can converge is in one of its 20 courtrooms.

Researchers at Duke University say the number of Muslim Americans convicted of terrorist acts in the U.S. is on a steady decline. They released the findings in conjunction with the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security.  In 2009, 49 people were arrested, and the number has dropped each subsequent year to 14 arrests last year. David Schanzer, director of the Triangle Center, says recent terrorism plotters haven’t been as sophisticated.

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