Law

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
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.

A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arrest.
Wikimedia Commons

Thousands of women and children from Central America are still waiting for decisions about whether they will be granted asylum in the United States. Many came here to escape rising violence in their home countries.

But until their court dates, they are being held at family detention centers along the Southwest border. Advocates and attorneys have reported prison-like conditions at these facilities with limited access to legal representation.

Javier Corrales authored a report on LGBT rights in Latin America.
Palgrave

 

LGBT rights have expanded more in Latin America than elsewhere in the North Atlantic region, according to a new report by the UNC LGBT Representation and Rights Research Initiative.

 Entire countries have legalized same-sex marriage and expanded health services for LGBT individuals. But the region also has countries, like Jamaica, that are some of the most dangerous places in the world to be gay. 

Rev. Gil Caldwell (far right) with Martin Luther King, Jr.
truthinprogress.com

In 2007, Methodist Reverend Frank Schaefer performed the marriage service for his son Tim's wedding.

The seemingly routine action dramatically altered Schaefer's career because the same-sex union was prohibited by the church. Schaefer’s performance of marriage vows put him at the center of a controversy. He was stripped of his credentials but after a trial, the defrocking was overturned.

Photo: Rep. Harry Warren (R-Rowan)
Jorge Valencia

Members of a North Carolina legislative panel approved a plan on Wednesday to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a restricted driver’s license if they pass a criminal background check and meet several other requirements.
 

For sponsors of the bill, the plan is a way to help police enforce local laws when they interact with people who are living in the country illegally. Local charities in Winston-Salem and Greensboro and authorities in Charlotte either issue or are looking for ways to issue identification cards, said Rep. Harry Warren (R-Salisbury).

A picture of a prison cell.
Derek Purdy / Creative Commons

Last year Michael Anthony Kerr was found unresponsive after spending 35 days in a solitary confinement cell in North Carolina.  He subsequently died. 

Recent research has shown that the impacts of solitary confinement can have detrimental long term effects.  A new pilot program in North Carolina aims to reduce rates of solitary confinement in the state. 

Jessa Wilcox is with the Vera Institute, a non profit focused on justice and is working with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety on the program. 

Alicia Garza is the co-creator of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.
Alicia Garza

Alicia Garza first wrote the phrase “black lives matter” on Facebook as a note to her friends and followers the day George Zimmerman was acquitted in the killing of Trayvon Martin. 

A picture of a syringe.
hitthatswitch / Flickr

Earlier this week, a judge in North Carolina determined the Craig Steven Hicks would be eligible for the death penalty for his role in the shootings of three students in Chapel Hill.  But the state of North Carolina has not put anyone to death since 2006.  The state is one of 34 in the country that allows the death penalty, but the practice here is rarely used.  That was not always the case.

Photo: A camera pinned on a police uniform
cops.usdoj.gov

A bipartisan group of North Carolina lawmakers is proposing that some of the state’s largest police departments and sheriffs’ offices be required to have their officers wear body cameras while they’re on patrol.

The bill—which would impact law enforcement agencies serving roughly 60 percent of the state’s population, including in Raleigh, Charlotte, Wilmington and Asheville—would set aside $10 million over two years to help agencies pay for the cost of equipment and storing thousands of hours of video.

Gun wall featuring rifles and assault riffles.
Michael Saechang - flickr.com/photos/saechang

Craig Stephen Hicks, the man accused of killing three young people in Chapel Hill this February, could face the death penalty. A Durham County Superior Court judge ruled Monday that the prosecution brought forth enough incriminating evidence to make him eligible for a death sentence.

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