Law

President Obama's choice to be the next attorney general grew up in a state where her parents fought for the right to vote. Loretta Lynch is a North Carolina native who hails from a long line of preachers. Her academic talent propelled her into some of the country's elite institutions. Now Lynch is trying to win Senate confirmation as the top U.S. law enforcement officer, as the first black woman in line to hold that job. Lynch was born 55 years ago, in Greensboro, N.C., where sit-ins and...

Bob Jones, leader of the N.C. KKK, April 1965
Bruce Roberts / The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

At one time North Carolina had more Ku Klux Klan members than all other the states combined, even though the state was seen as more racial progressive than others in the South. The PBS documentary series American Experience explores this idea with its latest episode, Klansville U.S.A. Callie Wiser is the film's director. She talked with Phoebe Judge about the rise and fall of the KKK in North Carolina: Interview highlights: Why was the Klan so successful in NC? In North Carolina, the...

crime scene tape
Ian Britton / Flickr/Creative Commons

Delays at North Carolina's State Crime Lab are a longstanding issue. Now, some local law enforcement agencies are seeking quicker assistance elsewhere. Steve Williams heads Greensboro's Forensic Services division. He says that because rapes and homicides take precedence, the review of evidence for other crimes can take a very long time under the state system.

"It could take years to get a lot of the property crimes even looked at," Williams said. So the police department uses a...

City of Fayetteville Police Department
bethebadge.com

There’s an organization in Holly Springs that trains law enforcement officers across the country to better serve their communities. The International Academy of Public Safety or IAPS, began training police and sheriff’s departments five years ago. Today, more than 12,000 law enforcement officers in ten states have participated in their program. More than 3,000 of them are in North Carolina. Chris Hoina is an expert trainer at IAPS. He says one of their biggest success stories is in Jefferson...

Bladenboro, N.C.
Gary Dincher / Flickr Creative Commons

In August, 17-year-old Lennon Lacy was found dead in the small town of Bladenboro, N.C, hanging by his neck from a swing set. Local police say Lacy killed himself, but Lacy's family says suspicious circumstances have raised questions about whether Lacy's death was a suicide or a lynching. Under pressure, the federal government says the FBI will conduct its own investigation. Host Frank Stasio talks with Washington Post reporter Todd Frankel, who has been following the story from Bladenboro.

Durham Police at Jesus Huerta protest in December 2013
Laura Lee

Across the nation, protestors have taken to the street to call for reforms in police action. The protests come in the wake of two grand juries declining to indict police officers who killed Eric Garner and Michael Brown. From the coast to the mountains, activists in North Carolina have joined the movement calling for greater police accountability. Host Frank Stasio talks with Ted Shaw , Director for the UNC Law Center for Civil Rights; Joseph Jordan , director of the Sonja Haynes Stone Center...

A picture of a yellow NCDOT truck.
ncdot.org

Yellow Department of Transportation trucks have been used to disguise roving patrolmen. The North Carolina Highway Patrol used them for a pilot program in which troopers patrolled for people who illegally text while driving. Lieutenant Jeff Gordon says it's hard for roadside troopers to see whether motorists are texting, and people are quick to stop if they see a police cruiser. “So you need to be creative in ways of trying to get people to abide by the law. I wouldn't classify it as tricking...

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that police officers don't necessarily violate a person's constitutional rights when they stop a car based on a mistaken understanding of the law. The ruling prompted a lone dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who warned that the court's decision could exacerbate public suspicion of police in some communities. In 2009, Nicholas Heien and a friend were traveling down a North Carolina highway when they were pulled over for having a broken tail light. A...

Photo: Death row inmates are housed at Central Prison in Raleigh. No executions have been carried out in North Carolina since 2006.
North Carolina Department of Public Safety

About 12 percent of the inmates in North Carolina's prisons are mentally ill, state prisons administrators told lawmakers at a hearing this week. Administrators, including David Guice, the commissioner for the state Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice, said the they're starting a re-structuring of how they handle the roughly 4,600 mentally ill inmates. They're beginning to concentrate transfer some inmates and concentrate some services in some locations - instead of having them...

 Saint Paul, Minnesota police officers covered in riot gear march and line up during the 2008 Republican National Convention (RNC) at the Xcel Energy Center.
Tony Webster

Police departments across the state of North Carolina are arming themselves with the same weapons and gear as the U.S. military.

Now this is surprising:

A picture of lights on a police car.
Alejandro Mejía Greene/JubiloHaku / Flickr Creative Commons

The decisions not to indict white police officers who killed unarmed black men in Ferguson, Mo., and New York have led to calls for reform. Demonstrations across the country suggest a deep divide between some law enforcement agencies and the people they are charged with protecting.

Joseph Sledge, photographed at Pamlico Correctional Institution in Bayboro, N.C. Thursday, February 28, 2013.
ETHAN HYMAN — ehyman@newsobserver.com

In 1976, Joseph Sledge escaped from an Elizabethtown prison and within 24 hours, mother and daughter Josephine and Ailene Davis were murdered.

Venus flytrap
David McAdoo / Flickr/Creative Commons

Did you know that picking a Venus Flytrap in North Carolina can now land you two years in prison ? The law, enacted earlier this week, is meant to protect the Venus Flytrap, a rare carnivorous plant that only grows in the wild in swamps near Wilmington. It's estimated that there are only 35,000 plants remaining in the wild. The plant's numbers have dwindled in part because of people stealing them from protected lands. One of WUNC's staff members, Eric Mennel , explored the Venus Flytrap...

Hundreds gathered in downtown Durham on Tuesday night to protest the lack of charges against Darren Wilson. They held signs that read "We Are All Michael Brown."
Reema Khrais

Hundreds of people gathered throughout central North Carolina Tuesday night in response to the decision in Ferguson, Missouri to not indict white police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of black 18-year-old Michael Brown. In Durham, dozens of protesters briefly stopped traffic on the northbound lanes of the Durham Freeway around 6:30 p.m. They were chanting slogans like “No Justice, No Peace" and "No Racist Police." “We were just like shouting, clapping,” said local musician Alex...

The Rev. William Barber, president of the NC NAACP, addressed reporters on Tuesday morning.
Reema Khrais

Leaders of North Carolina’s NAACP are expressing their disappointment in the decision to not indict Ferguson, Missouri white officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of black 18-year-old Michael Brown. Reverend William Barber spoke at a press conference in Durham this morning. He said that the decision to not indict Wilson is an indictment of the system itself. “And we're plagued with it here. It's an indictment, right here, on the system in North Carolina. Racial profiling is real in this...

peoplesworld / Flickr Creative Commons

A grand jury in St. Louis has decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the white Ferguson police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, an unarmed black man. In Ferguson, the decision sparked outrage, with several instances of arson and looting overnight. Police have arrested at least 61 people. In other parts of the country, the decision was met with mixed response and reflection about how race plays into the criminal justice system. Host Frank Stasio talks with Mark Anthony Neal...

https://www.flickr.com/photos/30928442@N08

Long-term solitary confinement is a cruel, inhumane and degrading form of punishment, according to a new report from The University of North Carolina School of Law. The 225-page report, Solitary Confinement as Torture, identifies torture as the infliction of severe pain- physical or psychological- for the purposes of punishing an individual for something they have done or are accused of doing. Lead author Deborah Weissman told The State of Things host Frank Stasio that solitary confinement is...

Tonya Rush is an analyst at the crime lab. The NC General Assembly recently added funding for 30 more analysts to help with the backlog.
Eric Mennel / WUNC

We've been looking at the problems in the State Crime Lab this week , particularly the backlog in evidence testing. A group of judges, lawyers, and scientists came together in recent months to suggest solutions for clearing up the backlog, but inside the lab, some efforts are already under way. The interesting thing is that no one is disputing that there is a big problem. Not the judges, not the researchers, and most importantly not the actual head of the State Crime Lab—who has been very...

One of the refrigerators at the NC State Crime Lab
Eric Mennel

Like many crime labs across the country, the North Carolina State Crime Lab in Raleigh has a serious backlog. One reason is finding and paying qualified staff. But a new report issued by researchers at the University of North Carolina School of Government shows a second, more complex problem. The report goes into detail about the effect a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Melendez-Diaz, had on the way forensic evidence gets admitted at criminal trials. Melendez-Diaz was a drug trafficking...

On March 12, 2014, Michael Anthony Kerr, an inmate at the Alexander Correctional Institution , died from dehydration en route to a hospital in Raleigh. The treatment of Mr. Kerr in days leading up to his death have led to many questions as well as investigations by the US Attorney’s Office and the State Bureau of Investigation. Host Frank Stasio talks with News & Observer investigative reporter Joe Neff about the death and treatment of Mr. Kerr and the questions surrounding the case. More...

Image of Asheville police cra
Osajus / Flickr Creative Commons

The state Justice Department is looking into allegations of administrative failure at the Asheville Police Department. One lieutenant says he faced retaliation for raising concerns about outdated equipment and a short staff of patrol officers. Another says Police Chief William Anderson asked him to lie during an SBI investigation of the chief’s son. Anderson and the city council have refuted those claims. But the allegations have badly damaged morale within the department. More than 40...

Book by Mark Achteimeier. WJK Press/2014
WJK Press

Theologian and pastor Mark Achtemeier led the movement to prohibit gays and lesbians from becoming ordained in the Presbyterian church in the 1990s. His opposition to homosexuality was firmly rooted in his Christian faith and his interpretation of Biblical teachings. He succeeded and the Church banned the gay ordination in 1997. Just a few years later, he developed a friendship with a gay man in a committed relationship and Achtemeier began to question his beliefs. After r eexamining the scriptures, he concluded there is a Biblical basis for supporting same sex couples. Now he leads the movement for inclusion in the Presbyterian Church. Host Frank Stasio talks with Mark Achtemeier, theologian, pastor and author of The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage (WJK Press/2014).

New Right: Judge Or Jury

Nov 5, 2014
Picture of gavel
Flickr.com

State voters passed a constitutional amendment that would give people accused of a felony a choice to have a judge hear their trial rather than a jury of their peers. The amendment was approved with about 54% of the vote. Up until last night's vote, North Carolina stood alone in refusing to allow that choice. The option will only be available to persons not facing the death penalty. State lawmakers introduced the measure in March of 2013. It passed both the state Senate and House, and was...

Child with flag
jvoves on Flickr

More than 400 women and children from Central America are currently being held at a temporary detention center in southeast New Mexico. Most fled to the United States to escape violence in their home countries. They are seeking asylum in the United States but face many legal and personal challenges. A group of attorneys from North Carolina traveled to the remote town of Artesia, New Mexico to represent the detainees. Host Frank Stasio talks with two of the attorneys, Evelyn Smallwood and...

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