Law

City of Fayetteville Police Department
bethebadge.com

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.

A panel of three judges has found two North Carolina men innocent of a murder to which they had once pleaded guilty.

The judges announced their decision Thursday in Asheville after nearly two weeks of testimony in the cases of Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxsin.

Both men had pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of Walter Bowman of Fairview at his home in 2000. They claimed they agreed to the pleas to avoid the possibility of getting the death penalty or spending life behind bars.

A new report released yesterday takes a close-up look at the state of workers in North Carolina’s tobacco fields.

The report – “A State of Fear – Human Rights Abuses in North Carolina’s Tobacco Industry” was produced by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee and Oxfam America.  It includes interviews with migrant farm workers, mostly undocumented and representatives of the tobacco industry.


Baldemar Velasquez is president of the Farm Labor Organizing Committee AFL-CIO. He says the only way to better the lives of the tobacco workers is for industry to step in.

Anti-Abortion License Plate
ncchoose-life.org

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina is filing a federal lawsuit alleging the state's adoption of "Choose Life" license plates is unconstitutional on the grounds that a pro-choice alternative isn't offered. Katherine Lewis Parker is a Legal Director at the ACLU.

An exemption for biomass facilities from carbon dioxide limits under the Clean Air Act is being challenged in court. The Environmental Protection Agency is exempting biomass facilities from the rules for the next three years because they're considered carbon-neutral or low-carbon emitters. Frank Rambo is the senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center working on that case.

Legal Aid NC
legalaidnc.org

Legal Aid of North Carolina is closing three offices due to budget cuts totaling more than $2 million. Legal Aid serves poor people who can't afford legal help with issues like mortgage assistance and domestic violence. The non-profit is facing cuts from both the federal and state government. Legal Aid of North Carolina Executive Director George Hausen says they're closing the rural offices in Henderson, Boone, and Smithfield.

Law enforcement officials say their efforts to crack down on people who text on their cell phones while driving is resulting in some success. Jessica Jones reports.

A state law banning texting while driving went into effect about a year and a half ago. Since then, the State Highway Patrol has issued about 11 hundred tickets to people who've been texting on the road. Sergeant Jeff Gordon is a spokesman for the department. He says the patrol conducts periodic "Operation Distracted Driver" campaigns to crack down on the practice.

Durham Police Department vehicle
Durham Police Department

The Durham Police have a new reminder for residents about the dangers of driving drunk. It looks like a police car in the front and a taxi cab in the back. The car tells drunk drivers they can choose their ride- either a taxi or a police car. Decals on the hood give information warning about the monetary cost of getting a DUI. Durham County Assistant Chief Lee Russ says the 'franken-car' will be parked outside of nightlife spots. He hopes that people will think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking.

Defense attorneys have decided to present evidence during jury selection in the murder trial of Robert Stewart. He's accused of shooting and killing eight people two years ago at the Pinelake Health and Rehabilitation Center in Moore County. Stewart's attorneys say he was under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs at the time and is not legally responsible for his actions. Defense lawyers are showing potential jurors graphic images of the shootings and Stewart admitted this week during jury selection he killed the victims.

Federal investigators are looking into allegations of mistreatment at the Wake County jail. The North Carolina ACLU compiled 57 complaints in 2009 and 2010 from detainees accused of illegal immigration. Some say their rights to due process were violated. The ACLU claims that constitutes a violation of an immigration law called 287(g). It allows the federal government to enter into agreements with local law enforcement to carry out immigration functions. Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison:

Major crimes, like homicides and robberies, are way down in Raleigh. The number of homicides fell from 35 two years ago to 14 in 2010.

City officials are crediting efforts in “community policing” in 2009 for the decrease. It involves increased foot patrols, juvenile programs, and specially-trained officers.

Another part of the community policing strategy is to increase enforcement of lesser crimes, like prostitution and drug offenses, before they lead to major crimes. Prostitution arrests rose from 64 in 2008 to 239 last year.

The driver of the tractor-trailer involved in yesterday's multi-vehicle crash on I-40 has been arrested on multiple charges. Three people died in the accident.

North Carolina's crime level has dropped to its lowest level since 1977.

John Edwards' indictment today marks the beginning of what may be a long courtroom battle over whether or not he violated campaign finance laws. Some North Carolinians who worked on his campaigns say regardless of the legal outcome, they still feel betrayed by the affair he conducted with his mistress when he was a presidential candidate in 2008. Linda Gunter is the President of Democratic Women of Wake County. 

Lawsuit Over Cuts for People with Disabilities

Jun 1, 2011

Starting today, people with disabilities who have been getting supported to live at home will start losing their services. That's why Disability Rights North Carolina filed a federal lawsuit to stop the state service cuts from going into effect. 

Disability Rights head Vicki Smith says the cuts affect about 4,000 people around the state who need help with only 2 activities of daily living - such toileting or bathing - to stay at home.  Smith says if the cuts happen, these people will be likely to end up in institutions if they don't have family members available to help

Copper Theft Increasing

May 31, 2011

The Public Works Commission of Fayetteville is reporting problems with thieves breaking into electric substations to steal copper wire. Spokeswoman Carol Justice-Hinson says they’ve had 12 break-ins since April.

Carol Justice-Hinson: "They’re cutting the fence and finding all kinds of creative ways to get in. This isn’t uncommon—I think what’s different right now is that we’ve had so many. For the last two months, its been one right after the other."

Attorney General Roy Cooper objects to the part of the North Carolina Senate's budget proposal that includes an overhaul of the State Bureau of Investigation. The spending plan released this week directs the SBI to move out from under the Attorney General's supervision. A cabinet-level secretary would oversee the bureau and the state crime lab. Some lawmakers have called for the move in light of more than 200 mishandled cases at the SBI's blood unit. Cooper says moving the SBI to another law enforcement agency would not satisfy critics.

A top aide to former Governor Mike Easley has been sentenced to a year in prison for failing to report a thirty thousand dollar profit on his taxes.

 U.S. District Court Judge Terence Boyle sentenced 39-year-old Ruffin Poole to 12 months in prison. He must also pay a thirty thousand dollar fine. Investigators found that Poole used his position as the former governor's aide to speed up the environmental permitting process at a new development in Carteret County.

Dozens of lawyers in North Carolina are taking their names off the list of court-appointed defense attorneys for low-income clients. The state Office of Indigent Services says it is cutting its compensation rate of 75 dollars an hour for defense attorneys. The Office's executive director says the current budget proposal leaves the department with a 12-million dollar shortfall. The department has not yet decided on a new rate of compensation. Attorney John Cox is one of about 15 lawyers from Alamance County who have submitted letters of resignation.

Two North Carolina men convicted of murder say there is new evidence that shows they are innocent. Kenneth Kagonyera and Robert Wilcoxson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder charges in connection with a shooting in Buncombe County more than 10 years ago. They appear before the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission today. That panel is responsible for last year's exoneration of Greg Taylor, who spent 16 years in prison for a murder he didn't commit.

The Fayetteville Police Department is changing its search policies in response to accusations of racial profiling. The department stopped and searched three times more black drivers than white ones last year. That concerned local activist groups, who want a review of the traffic stops. Lieutenant Chris Davis says Fayetteville Police are now requiring officers to give a detailed written reason for each search they conduct based on probable cause.

A bill in the North Carolina house would prohibit state employees from receiving retirement benefits if they are convicted of a felony. The measure would apply only to those who are convicted of a crime that took place while working for the state. The crime would also have to be directly related to the individual's office or employment. Republican Representative Julia Howard of Mocksville is one of the bill's sponsors. She says she and others hope a penalty would prevent some crimes from being committed:

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