Law

A Hickory man serving a life sentence will get a chance to try to prove his innocence after more than two decades in prison.

The American Civil Liberties Union is taking a stand to protect cell phone records in police investigations.

Gurnal Scott: About 40 North Carolina police agencies responded to the national ACLU's question on how cell phone records were obtained. The ACLU said the responses were inconsistent ranging from getting court orders as a safety net to having no written policy at all. North Carolina ACLU spokesman Mike Meno says the intent is not to hamper how police track suspects.

Multiple perspectives will get an airing at a panel this evening on the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions in North Carolina.

The discussion at Meredith College will be moderated by religious and ethical studies assistant professor Steven Benko. He says legal experts on both sides of the issue will offer analysis of the law. And religious leaders will also participate.

The Chapel Hill town council failed to approve a cell phone ban on motorists at last night’s meeting.

Leoneda Inge:  The vote was four-to-four, one council member was absent.  This was the first reading of the controversial ordinance that would ban motorists from talking on cell phones except in an emergency.  Councilwoman Penny Rich introduced the ordinance.  She says she’s glad there will be another vote.

Town of Chapel Hill officials are scheduled to vote tonight on banning the use of cell phones while driving.

Leoneda Inge:  Members of the Chapel Hill town council have heard all sides of the cell-phone-while-driving debate.   An emotional Karen Turner came down from Asheville to speak at last month’s public hearing.   Her brother Joel Severson was killed on I-40 in an accident triggered by a driver who was texting.

An environmental group is trying to halt new rules that allow more vegetation to be cut around billboards that line the state's roadways. Billboard owners say the new guidelines are needed to preserve visibility. But the group Scenic NC has filed a lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order on the rules, which go into effect today. Molly Diggins is the executive director of the North Carolina chapter of the Sierra Club. She says the law allows clear cutting in front of the signs with no mandate for tree replacement.

Congressman Walter Jones has filed a bill to overturn new rules on beach driving along the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. The eastern North Carolina Republican says new restrictions to protect sea turtles and birds will harm the local recreational economy.

Walter Jones: Instead of finding a balance between the endangered species and the people, it seems like that they're always giving more consideration to the endangered species. And I'm for protecting the endangered species, you know my work to protect the horses at Shackleford Banks and up in Corolla.

Wilmington's police chief says a new gunshot-detection technology is helping officers make arrests. The city used a federal grant to install the ShotSpotter system in November. Acoustic sensors around a 3-square-mile area detect gunshots and immediately relay the information to police. Chief Ralph Evangelous is urging the city council to continue ShotSpotter once the federal funding runs out next year. It would cost about $120,000 dollars. Officials in other cities where the system has been proposed have objected to the cost in a time of tight budgets. Evangelous disagrees.

Drivers in Chapel Hill may soon have to refrain from talking on their cell phones. A proposed ban on the practice is being considered in a public hearing tonight. Penny Rich serves on the town council. She says a second draft makes the proposal more enforceable by making it a second offense rather than a primary offense. She says that means drivers won't be pulled over for speaking on cell phones, but if they commit another violation while using the device, they would be written up for both offenses.

North Carolina Law Enforcement officials plan to crack down on methamphetamine labs in 2012. Jeff Tiberii has more.

Jeff Tiberii: Last year there were 331 illegal methamphetamine lab busts in North Carolina, an all-time high. The main ingredient in the drug is pseudoephedrine, which is found in Sudafed. Beginning this week all retailers will be hooked into a tracking system tracing pseudoephedrine purchases. North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper:

Laurence Lovette will serve the rest of his life behind bars for murdering UNC Chapel Hill student body president Eve Carson. On Tuesday Lovette became the second man convicted in the killing. District Attorney Jim Woodall says in the four years since the crime, the Carson case has received attention throughout the country.

Jim Woodall: "I've literally prosecuted thousands of cases. One thing that made this case different is that it was so senseless. And then that Eve had such a bright future. She meant so much to so many people."

A judge has ruled that Durham novelist Michael Peterson will get a new trial in his wife's 2001 death. Judge Orlando Hudson ruled Wednesday that former State Bureau of Investigation agent Duane Deaver misled the court about the bloodstain evidence at the 2003 trial in which Peterson was convicted of murder in the death of Kathleen Peterson, who was found at the bottom of a bloody staircase. The SBI fired Deaver in January after an independent audit found he misreported, mishandled or exaggerated forensic evidence in 34 criminal cases.

There are a lot of legal questions surrounding the potential for shale gas drilling and exploration in North Carolina.  A workshop is set for tomorrow to help bring lawyers up to speed.

The half-day workshop is to give North Carolina attorneys an introduction to natural gas drilling, mineral rights and leasing land to conduct drilling.  Ted Feitshans is an extension associate professor at N-C State and will help conduct the workshop.  He says property owners need help before negotiating with natural gas companies.

Lawmakers are still at odds over how to close a projected 139 million dollar shortfall in the state's Medicaid budget. Governor Bev Perdue has accused Republican leaders in the General Assembly of breaking their promise to help close a spending gap. Democratic Representative Verla Insko says legislators must decide how to come up with the money.

There are more than 30 new laws that take effect today in North Carolina.

People with multiple convictions of driving while impaired will face harsher punishments and higher fines. "Laura's Law" is named after a 17-year-old girl from Gaston County who died after a drunken driver collided with her car last year.

Lawmakers have adjourned their post-Thanksgiving work session.

Lawmakers in Raleigh have voted to repeal a historic law that allows death row inmates to appeal their sentences.

The state senate voted 27 to 17 last night to repeal the Racial Justice Act. The law was passed two years ago amid great fanfare. It allows inmates to appeal their sentences by using statistical evidence to show the influence of racial bias. Republican Senator Thom Goolsby introduced the measure to repeal the Racial Justice Act on the Senate floor.

High Point is home to a refurbished firearms facility.

Nearly two million dollars has been spent on improvements for the 20-year-old facility. Now, officers from around the state can use the centrally located center for practice and training. Kenneth Shultz is a Major with the High Point Police Department. He says among other improvements, upgrades include a classroom and a moving target system to help with reaction time.

Federal officials say they're willing to hand over details about a proposed immigration detention facility to towns in Wake County provided that local officials keep them a secret. But the request from the General Services Administration could be subject to North Carolina's public records law. Lana Hygh is Cary's liaison to the GSA. She says town officials are trying to determine whether the confidentiality request is allowed under state law.

Police say their response to demonstrators who occupied a vacant building in Chapel Hill was appropriate. Officers moved into the building with assault rifles Sunday evening and charged seven people with breaking and entering. Police say some demonstrators were what they called known anarchists trying to align themselves with the Occupy Chapel Hill movement. Police chief Chris Blue says officers found literature detailing how to conduct a riot and flip a police car at the scene. Chapel Hill mayor Mark Kleinschmidt defended the decision.

In Raleigh today, a group of civil rights and election watchdog organizations filed a legal challenge to newly drawn maps for North Carolina’s legislative and congressional seats. The suit is the second filed this week in Wake County Superior Court alleging the Republican-drawn maps segregate minority voters in order to dilute their statewide influence.

A federal judge has denied motions to dismiss the case against former North Carolina Senator John Edwards.

Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards sat through federal court hearings on Wednesday as his Lawyers tried to get an indictment against him dismissed.

Wearing a navy blue suit, red tie and wedding ring, the former two-time Presidential Candidate listened to a contentious hearing yesterday.

Former North Carolina Senator John Edwards is in Federal court today where his Lawyers are trying to get an indictment against him dismissed.

The two-time Presidential Candidate was indicted this past June on six felony charges, including campaign finance violations and conspiracy.

Edwards fathered a child with former campaign staffer Rielle Hunter and used nearly 1 million dollars to keep the relationship a secret.

Firefighters in Durham will now be equipped to save more lives when they're called to rescue families from burning homes and apartments. Many survivors emerge distraught to find little can be done for their pets because of severe smoke inhalation. But now, every one of Durham's 16 fire stations will have kits containing oxygen masks to help resuscitate man's best friends.

The Greensboro Police Department is getting a new headquarters.

Earlier this year the city purchased the old IRS building for 1 dollar. The 94,000 square foot building will undergo 900 thousand dollars in renovations during the next three years. But overall the 56-year-old building is in good condition

Greensboro police Captain Mike Richey: "There's really no telling how long this building will last. the structure, the foundation is in great shape and we expect it to last for years to come"

City of Fayetteville Police Department
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Fayetteville's City Council has taken steps to address a perception of racial bias in its police force. Civil rights groups have complained about a greater frequency of police searches on black residents than white ones. The Council voted Monday night to require at least one documented reason for asking for a consent search. Drivers and occupants still will have the right to refuse. City Manager Dale Iman says it's still up to each officer to determine what's a reasonable pretext to ask to search someone. But Iman says they have to document that reason now.

More than 50 new laws take effect this weekend in North Carolina.

Among the changes starting Saturday is a new provision in the medical malpractice law. People who file lawsuits will be limited to 500-thousand dollars in non-economic damages if they win a case. That includes compensation for pain, suffering and other injuries. There will not be a limit on payments for medical bills and lost wages.

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are among several groups who filed a federal lawsuit today opposing new restrictions on abortions in North Carolina. The new state law requires women undergo specific counseling, view an ultrasound, and wait 24 hours before having an abortion. The groups argue that violates the free speech and due process rights of health care providers and women seeking abortions. Donna Burkett is Medical Director for Planned Parenthood Health Systems.

Police in Rocky Mount are using acoustic sensors to detect the sound of gunshots and find the location of the shooter. Sergeant Kevin Bern says the system called "ShotSpotter" uses four sensors strategically placed throughout the city.

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