Law

A Johnston County Ku Klux Klan leader was convicted this week in a plot to kill the sheriff of his county. Gurnal Scott reports.

Last week, the US Department of Justice released findings following a two-year investigation into alleged racial profiling by the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department. The D-O-J says the department targeted Latino drivers, installed unnecessary checkpoints in Latino neighborhoods and abused its power as a county taking part in the controversial 287 (g) deportation program. Alamance has since been removed from the program, but the local Sheriff says these accusations are completely false.

Durham bike riders are traveling the city's portion of the American Tobacco Trail hoping to make it safer. Debbie West says it's a route she likes to take to where she needs to go. "I love the Tobacco Trail. I live and work near it," says West.

State police agencies are  mandated by law to track every traffic stop they make...who was pulled over and why. 

Advocates are speaking out about a spike in domestic violence-related homicides in Wake County. There have been five alleged such killings in the last four months - one more than in all of last year. Organizers of a silent march in downtown Raleigh yesterday say about 75 people turned out to honor Agata Vellotti. Police say she was killed by her estranged husband 2 weeks ago. Another march will be held for Kathleen Bertrand, allegedly shot by her ex-husband at a Raleigh shopping center on Monday.

The State Court of Appeals has reversed a Durham judge's decision to dismiss murder charges in a case involving claims of mishandled evidence.

In a decision released earlier today, Appeals Court Judge Sam Ervin says Durham Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson erred by dismissing charges against Derrick Allen. The court has ordered new hearings. Allen was accused of killing his girlfriend's daughter in 1998.

Armstrong
Jeff Tiberii

Issac-Davy Aronson: LaMonte Armstrong walked out of a Greensboro Courthouse a few weeks ago. The 62-year-old grandfather, graduate of North Carolina A&T and longtime basketball coach was free. Convicted of murder in 1995 and sentenced to life, Armstrong has always maintained his innocence. A local law clinic intervened, evidence raising significant doubts was revealed, and ultimately a judge overturned the conviction.

Coming soon to a restaurant near you: a rare hamburger. New food safety rules will free up many establishments to serve undercooked meat as long as they provide a written warning of the risks on the menu or elsewhere. It's part of federal food guidelines adopted by North Carolina last week, and being implemented statewide September 1st.

Larry Michael is head of the food protection program with the state Division of Public Health. He says the rules are about more than just a rare burger.

Overall crime across the state is down by nearly one percent, according to the latest statistics from the North Carolina Department of Justice. That makes the 2011 crime rate the state's lowest since 1977. It also marks the third consecutive year of decline. It's not all good news, though. Murder is up by almost six percent. Overall crime in some Triangle-area counties, including Chatham and Franklin, appears to be on the rise.

Representatives for some Raleigh police officers have filed a grievance against a new department evaluation policy.

Gurnal Scott: Trey Walters is a Raleigh officer of three-and-a-half years. He speaks for the 100 or so officers who say a system installed by Chief Harry Dolan evaluating officers' by quantity of work diminishes what they do.

Trey Walters: Chief Dolan is taking us down a path that will have police officers chasing numbers instead of criminals.

An undocumented immigrant that interrupted a state House hearing in February wants his case heard in Wake County Superior Court.

State lawmakers have overridden the governor's veto of a bill that waters down the Racial Justice Act. The Act, passed in 2009, allows death row prisoners to challenge their sentences based on statistical evidence of discrimination. The new bill will limit the time frame and scope of statistics that inmates can use to challenge their sentences. Republican House Majority Leader Paul Stam thinks that's reasonable.

Republican legislative leaders are expected to try to override the governor's veto of a measure that would water down the Racial Justice Act. The Act, passed in 2009, allows death row prisoners to appeal their sentences using statistical evidence of discrimination.

A new non-profit group will support Greensboro law enforcement.

Fayetteville's city council has approved new dog limits. Starting July 1st, people living in apartments will only be able to keep two dogs, and people living on less than a half acre will be limited to three. Cumberland County approved the same ordinance earlier this month. Three council members voted against the measure, saying the city should focus on problem dogs. But Cumberland County animal control director John Lauby says the new restrictions will make people safer.

A Hickory man has been released from prison as he continues seeking to prove his innocence in a 1987 rape case.

Gurnal Scott: Willie James Grimes served more then two decades in prison for rape and kidnapping. He walked out of prison this morning on parole..but his conviction still follows him. He had to register with the state as a sex offender. The North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission ruled last month that a review of Grimes' case is warranted. His attorney Christine Mumma says they discovered evidence that had been overlooked.

At the John Edwards trial the prosecution has rested, and today the defense is expected to ask the judge to dismiss the case all together.

The town of Chapel Hill's attempt to ban cell phone use while driving has been temporarily blocked by a judge's ruling.

Advocates of the state's Racial Justice Act are hailing a judge's ruling today that race was a factor in a death row inmate's jury selection. Marcus Robinson was sentenced in 1994 for murder. Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks ruled that prosecutors in the trial disqualified potential black jurors more often than others. Stephen Dear with People of Faith Against the Death Penalty says he thinks this decision shows that bias has played a role in convictions.

John Edwards
Jeff Tiberii

Jury selection continued today in the John Edwards case.

On May 8th, North Carolinians will vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would ban gay marriage and civil unions. Opponents of Amendment One claim the measure would have far-reaching consequences for gay and straight families alike. One claim is that some unmarried people and their children could lose health care coverage. Isaac-Davy Aronson reports for our series examining the arguments over Amendment One.

Parking decks in Downtown Greensboro will now cost a couple of bucks at night.

A new study is detailing housing violations for migrant workers in Eastern North Carolina.

Jeff Tiberii: Researchers from Wake Forest University found violations at all 183 worker camps they examined. Bacteria from human waste were found in the drinking water at 61 of those camps. Dr. Thomas Arcury Directs the Center for Worker Health at Wake Forest School of Medicine. He wrote the report.

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.

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