Law

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.

Flickr user Ben Re

Almost one out of every 10 people in the United States has a firearm at home and has shown a propensity for impulsive angry behavior, according to an academic analysis led by a Duke University professor and published this month.
 

The analysis, which relied on an early 2000s in-person interviews with more than 5,000 people across the country, concludes that individuals showing impulsive angry behavior are more likely than people diagnosed with a mental illness to engage in gun violence.

Johannesburg, South Africa
Franklin Pi / Flickr Creative Commons

In 1977, authorities in South Africa threw Thokozile Matilda Masipa in prison for protesting the country's apartheid system.

After the system collapsed, Judge Masipa became just the second black woman to sit on South Africa's High Court.

And she was in the international spotlight last year when she presided over the trial of Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic runner who was convicted of culpable homicide in the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

Judge Masipa's dramatic transition is just one story of a justice system that once had unjust laws.

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

The percentage of law students passing the North Carolina bar exam has dropped over the past five years. The state Board of Law Examiners reports 62 percent passed in July 2014.

Catharine Arrowood of the North Carolina Bar Association says the problem starts before law school.

"It appears that the first year law students that are going into the law schools are not as well prepared for either analytical thinking or excellent writing as people were 10 years ago."

Arrowood says economic downturn might play a role.

Craig Stephen Hicks at an April 6th court hearing.
Reema Khrais

The suspect in the fatal shootings of three young Muslim-Americans in a Chapel Hill apartment in February is eligible to receive the death penalty if convicted, a Durham County Superior Court judge said on Monday.

Durham County District Attorney Assistant Jim Dornfried gave a more detailed narrative of the shooting, explaining that Craig Stephen Hicks had the blood of one of the shooting victims and gunshot residue on his clothes. 

Hicks is charged with the killings of Razan Abu-Salha, 19; her sister, Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and her husband, 23-year-old Deah Barakat.

Photo: Firearms
Jorge Valencia

The suspect in this year’s murder of three young people in a Chapel Hill apartment is scheduled for his second court appearance today.

Craig Stephen Hicks, 46, has been charged in the fatal shooting of three young people in the apartment next to his in the Finley Forest neighborhood of Chapel Hill. According to search warrants, authorities found three airsoft guns and 11 firearms in his home, including pistols shotguns and one AR-15 assault rifle with a fully-loaded magazine.

A photo from Grenada, Miss., where Nan Elizabeth Woodruff studies the legacies of terror and violence against people of color.
Matthew Nichols / Flickr Creative Commons

  This year marks the 50th anniversary of many monumental moments of the civil rights movement.

And a group of scholars and activists gather today at the National Humanities Center to push for increased dialogue about how the historical violence against people of color continues to resonate today.

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory
wikipedia

Leaders of the North Carolina General Assembly violated the separation of powers among the three branches of government when they created three commissions in which lawmakers appoint the majority of the members, a judicial panel said on Monday. 

Concertina wire surrounding a prison
Kate Ter Harr / Flickr Creative Commons

Corrections officers from North Carolina prisons could carry concealed firearms while off duty without a permit under a legislative proposal that seeks to help them protect themselves from a growing number of threats from prison gangs.

    

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of key moments in the civil rights movement, including Bloody Sunday and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Durham County prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Craig Stephen Hicks if he is convicted of the fatal shooting of three young Muslim Americans in Chapel Hill last month.

Durham District Attorney Roger Echols filed a notice of intent last week in Durham County Superior Court, saying he would pursue the charges at a preliminary hearing to be scheduled for the week of April 6th.

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

An atheist group filed a federal lawsuit to compel the North Carolina Department of Corrections to make space available for group studies by atheists in the same way it does for religious inmates.
 

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, was brought by Kwame Teague, an inmate being held for life on a 1996 first-degree murder conviction. Teague has requested space for a study group since 2012.

Carolina Academic Press

  

The U.S. justice system is meant to protect Americans from wrongdoing and hold accountable those who would harm others.

But advocates for reform point to incidents like the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner as just a few examples of a broken system.

Peacemaking criminologist Michael DeValve says love can rebuild it, arguing that where equality fails, empathy and compassion can succeed.

Shana Carignan (left) and Megan Parker with Jax
North Carolina ACLU

A North Carolina legislative panel has approved a Republican plan that would allow magistrate judges to recuse themselves from officiating any weddings if they have a faith-based opposition to same-sex unions.

The bill, introduced by Senate Leader Phil Berger (R-Eden), was passed on what appeared to be a mostly party-line vote in a Senate Judiciary Committee this morning.

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