Law

Jose Lopez, Durham Police Department
Durham Police Department

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez will retire at the end of 2015, the city announced Tuesday. The department has come under fire in recent years, especially after 17-year-old Latino Jesus Huerta died from a gunshot wound while in police custody in 2013.

"The last two years have been difficult for law enforcement, but together we have weathered it in a manner in which we can all be proud," Lopez wrote in a letter to his department.

A man in handcuffs.
Lionel Allorge / Wikipedia

Durham is expanding a program that allows young first-time offenders to remove a misdemeanor conviction from their record.

Previously available to 16 and 17 year olds, those 21 and under can complete the misdemeanor diversion program beginning in October. Instead of facing jail time or a fine, participants go to court, attend workshops and do community service work.

Durham Chief District Court Judge Marcia Morey says during a typical misdemeanor court appearance, an offender is able to have just a few seconds before a judge, plead guilty, and pay a fine.

A bicycle commuter.
Heb / https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycling_in_Copenhagen#/media/File:Copenhagen_cycle_chic.jpg

North Carolina's "Share the Road" signs and "sharrows" on the pavement are confusing to many motorists.

That's according  North Carolina State University researchers George Hess and Nils Petersen. Their study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, reports that language is ambiguous and does not reflect state law.

Henry McCollum, left, spent 30 years, 11 months and seven days on death row. Leon Brown was imprisoned at the age of 15 and spend the first decade in solitary confinement. In 2014 the men were released after DNA evidence implicated another man.
Courtesy of Patrick Megaro

Two North Carolina men who were wrongfully convicted of murder and spent 30 years in prison are receiving financial compensation. Henry McCollum and his half-brother Leon Brown are each getting $750,000 from the state. The men were released a year ago after DNA evidence helped to exonerate them. Henry McCollum said no amount of money can make up for the lost time. The 51-year-old is hoping to make the most of his future.

The North Carolina Attorney General’s office has announced it will not retry a white police officer who shot an unarmed African-American man in Charlotte. Officer Randall Kerrick shot and killed Jonathan Ferrell in 2013 after responding to a breaking-and-entering call.

The voluntary manslaughter trial of Kerrick ended in a mistrial last week. The hung jury was stuck at 8-to-4 in favor of an acquittal.

An image of a shrimp on a fork
Ramiroja / Wikipedia Creative Commons

A federal court has sentenced a Harnett County seafood processor for mislabeling  imported farm-raised shrimp. Alphin Brothers Incorporated faces a $100,000 fine and three years probation for falsely marketing 25,000 pounds of shrimp as wild-caught in the U.S.

A picture of a gavel on a document.
Brian Turner / Flickr Creative Commons

 

Updated Friday, August 14, 3:15 p.m.

Carlos Antonio Riley was acquitted Friday of shooting Durham Officer Kelly Stewart in the leg at a traffic stop three years ago. The jury convicted Riley of only common law robbery.

Riley, 24, is charged with robbery with a firearm, common law robbery, reckless driving, felonious larceny from a person, assault on law enforcement inflicting serious injury, and assault with a firearm on a law enforcement officer. 

A picture of a cat at the Chatham County Animal Shelter
Chatham County Animal Shelter

Many of the 190 animals seized from a Chatham County property last month will soon be available for adoption. Beyond dogs and cats, authorities and animal welfare agencies rescued goats, ducks, chickens, horses, cows and a hog.

Leigh Ann Garrard, Director of Chatham County Animal Services, said it took months to coordinate with partner agencies to find places for the various species.

Image of lethal injection table
Ken Piorkowski / Flickr Creative Commons

Legal challenges to the death penalty in North Carolina have effectively stayed any executions since 2006.

This week, lawmakers look to change that with a bill that would allow any medical professional, not just doctors, to administer a lethal injection.

Federal Building Winston-Salem
Jeff Tiberii / WUNC

Fierce testimony from experts and disenfranchised voters has been delivered in a Winston-Salem courtroom during the first two weeks of a federal trial challenging North Carolina's controversial new voting law.

Harnett County Courthouse
Gerry Dincher / Wikipedia

The Harnett County Veterans Treatment Court is looking for volunteers to help veterans navigate the legal system.

The Veterans Treatment Court assists former service members who have committed minor misdemeanor crimes. Mentors are now working with 20 veterans, and 10 more are expected. But only nine mentors are enrolled.

NC General Assembly
Jorge Valencia

Members of the General Assembly are back in Raleigh after a week-long vacation. They still must pass a budget for the next two years and consider several other bills, including Medicaid reform and Gov. Pat McCrory's bond proposal.

And Greensboro challenges the legislature’s measure changing voting districts for the city council. 

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC capitol reporter Jorge Valencia about the legislature's agenda for the rest of the summer.

Photo: Rosanell Eaton and Mary E. Perry
Jorge Valencia

The federal trial challenging North Carolina's new voting regulations continues Tuesday morning in Winston-Salem.

Inside the courtroom yesterday were opening arguments and testimony from seven witnesses. An attorney for the plaintiffs, Penda Hare, called this case a pivotal moment in the civil rights movement, one she says will have a lasting and decisive impact on African American and Latino voters for years to come.

Outside the courthouse was a massive Moral Monday protest and a march through downtown.

A picture of Duke Law School.
Krazos / Wikipedia

The fraternities at Duke University are creating a sexual assault task force. The University suspended its Alpha Delta Phi chapter amid rape allegations this winter.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says fighting human trafficking is one of her priorities.
Jeff Tiberii

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke about fighting human trafficking this morning in North Carolina. The nation's  top prosecutor described human trafficking as modern-day slavery during a visit to the Triangle on Wednesday.

"Whether it is sexual trafficking, whether it is forced labor, but it is quite frankly the 21st century scourge of our time- and it really has no place in modern society, it has no place in the country, it has no place in this state," said Lynch.

Lynch praised federal prosecutors based here for their efforts to stop trafficking.

Chad Biggs (left), 35, and Chris Creech, 46, were the first gay couple to be wed in Wake County.
Jorge Valencia / WUNC

In a 5-4 ruling today, the U.S. Supreme Court said all 50 states must recognize marriages between same-sex couples. The decision also means those couples can now get married anywhere and have their marriages recognized in all states.

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the decision for the majority. Each dissenting justice also wrote his own opinion.

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC capitol bureau chief Jeff Tiberii about this morning's ruling.

An image of the Supreme Court
Kjetil Ree / Wikimedia Commons

The United States Supreme Court issued a decision today upholding tax subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the court's opinion.

Three justices, the court's most conservative members, dissented. The decision allows 460,000 North Carolinians to continue to receive subsidies for their health insurance.

The children's area in the lobby of the new Family Justice Center.
Catherine Johnson / Guilford County Family Justice Center

A Family Justice Center is opening today in downtown Greensboro and will offer a variety of services.

The new building will provide several types of support for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and elder abuse. Those services include law enforcement, legal, medical and social assistance.

Center Director Catherine Johnson said it is a benefit that the building is a one-stop spot for people dealing with these issues.  

Photo: Mark Martin
Courtesy of Mark Martin

 North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin has never hidden the fact that he is unhappy with the state of the court system in North Carolina. Chief Justice Martin is an outspoken critic of how budget constraints have negatively affected the courts.

Martin says one of the main issues plaguing the courts in antiquated technology, "The people of North Carolina- they shop online, they interact with myriad business, but when it comes to the court, we are hopelessly behind."

A picture of lifeguards training in a pool.
PoolSafety / Flickr

Fewer teens are becoming lifeguards at local city pools.

Raleigh has had to cut hours at its city pools because it's fallen 40 slots short of its hiring goal. 

Raleigh Aquatic Director Terri Stroupe says fewer than half of the participants who signed up for a free lifeguard certification class last week passed the swim test.

Photo: A graffiti painting at an intersection in Asheville
It's Tea / Flickr

State lawmakers are expected to send Gov. Pat McCrory on Wednesday a bill that would make graffiti vandalism a felony if performed by repeat offenders.

Under House Bill 552, which was approved unanimously by the House and is expected to get final approval from the Senate, anyone who has two or more prior convictions for graffiti vandalism or violates the law against it at least five times within two months could be charged with a felony. The offender could face up to 39 months in jail.

A picture of a hand holding a camcorder.
Peripitus / Wikipedia

A bill passed by the state legislature would allow business owners to sue employees who secretly record proceedings in the workplace or gain access to documents.

The Property Protection Act offer recourse against corporate espionage and organized retail theft. It would allow employers to sue for punitive damages of up to $5,000 per day.

The North Carolina Farm Bureau's Jake Parker says it would help protect pork and poultry producers from misrepresentation by animal rights activists working undercover at local operations.

Missing Men
Pixabay

As a teenager in Maryland, Dwayne Betts showed promise. The high school student made the honor roll and demonstrated sharp wit.

But Betts grew up in an environment not conducive to success. He recalls three of his classmates being killed. Others went to prison.

“The expectation wasn’t necessarily that we would go to prison,” Betts said. “But we lived in a climate and an environment in which these things were happening every day and nobody was confronting what it meant.”

A picture of a motor boat pulling a water skiier.
Fir0002 / Wikipedia

Law enforcement officials want North Carolinians to think twice before drinking and getting behind the wheel of a car or boat.

The State Highway Patrol and Wildlife Resources Commission are teaming up in a campaign called "On the road, on the water... Don't Drink and Drive."

Highway Patrol spokesman Sergeant Mike Baker says officers will be out around the summer's major holiday weekends.

Window and Wooden Boards
Sherrie Thai / https://flic.kr/p/6vjNqk

The city of Durham is no longer using plywood to cover up windows and doors in abandoned buildings.

Faith Gardner works for city's Neighborhood Improvement Services Department.

"If you're living in a neighborhood with boarded structures, they don't look good, you can tell that they've been abandoned, there's also an attraction there for criminal activity."

Gardner says a new, clear, polycarbonate material has been installed in ten vacant homes, with more to come. She adds that it improves the appearance of the buildings and allows police to look inside.

Laws Against Revenge Porn

May 8, 2015
North Carolina may join 16 states criminalizing "revenge porn."
Pixbay.com

North Carolina lawmakers are considering legislation to criminalize revenge porn- the distribution of sexually explicit images without the subject's consent.

The proposal would make it a felony to distribute certain kinds of revenge porn, also called nonconsensual pornography. Sixteen other states have criminalized revenge porn, but not all the laws are created equal, according to University of Miami law professor Mary Anne Franks

Garner Police Department, Police OFficers
Leoneda Inge

Commentary about tragic encounters between police and the public, mainly black men, has been a mainstay in the news these days.

Whether it’s the low pay or the bad publicity, police departments say it’s been increasingly hard to recruit new officers.

The images and sounds of police officers in riot gear, marching through the streets of Baltimore are hard to erase.

Speculation on motive surrounds the killings of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha.
Our Three Winners' Facebook page / Facebook.com

Autopsies indicate that a man charged with killing three Muslim college students held his gun to the heads of two victims when he pulled the trigger after shooting the first in the doorway.
Autopsies released Wednesday say 21-year-old Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and her sister, 19-year-old Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, died of contact wounds to the head, indicating the gun was very close to or against their scalps.

The older woman was shot in the top of the head. Her sister was shot in the back of the head.

Photo: U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker
Jorge Valencia

Federal prosecutors charged 13 current and former law enforcement officers in connection with a drug shipment network in North Carolina. 

Authorities say seven officers connected to the Northampton County Sheriff's Office conspired to distribute controlled substances from North Carolina to South Carolina and Maryland. Some also face money laundering, extortion and weapons charges.

Host Frank Stasio talks with WUNC reporter Jorge Valencia about the indictments.

Photo: U.S. Attorney Thomas Walker
Jorge Valencia

Federal authorities arrested 13 current or former law enforcement officers in Eastern North Carolina on Thursday morning, on suspicion that they were conspiring to use their badge and firearm to protect cocaine and heroin shipments to Maryland and South Carolina.

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