Law

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." 

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 state,” he said.

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.

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.

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.

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.

    

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.

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.

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 reexamining 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. 

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 Natalie Teague, about their experiences.

Criminal's episode art is by Julienne Alexander
Julienne Alexander

Criminal is a new podcast that's gaining some buzz. In August, the Huffington Post called it the Best New Radio Show In America. A couple of months later, it was included in Buzzfeed's list of "12 Podcasts That Will Make You A Better Human."

Halloween in Chapel Hill
Matt Fields / Flickr/Creative Commons

Chapel Hill officials say they are prepared for tonight's annual Halloween celebration on Franklin Street. 

More than 300 police officers will be keeping an eye on thousands of people expected to attend the event between 9 p.m. and midnight. 

Lieutenant Joshua Mecimore works for the town's police department.  He says there are rules in place to help keep all the ghouls and goblins safe.   

“You know, we want people to know that you can't have alcohol in the event, you can't bring alcohol out of one of the restaurants into the event,” he says.

Blackwater helicopters in Iraq
Heath Powell / Flickr Creative Commons

A U.S. congressman from North Carolina has reintroduced a bill to clarify how American laws apply to overseas contractors. Democratic Congressman David Price of Chapel Hill originally submitted the legislation in 2007 after contractors with the company Blackwater were accused of shooting up a public square in Baghdad. The law met resistance from the White House at the time and was never passed.

UNC-Charlotte researchers say they have come up with an estimated cost of domestic violence in North Carolina.   The new study says eight key factors add up to approximately $307 million the state pays as a result of the crime. 

When a family member is sentenced to time in prison, they who family can feel like they are "doing time."
http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/D/bo5485741.html

Anyone familiar with the American criminal justice system has likely heard the expression, “When a person gets sentenced to prison, the whole family serves the time.” 

City of Fayetteville Police Department
bethebadge.com

The U.S. Department of Justice will spend the next several months reviewing the policies and practices of the Fayetteville Police Department. The review comes at the request of Fayetteville Police Department as part of the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services program. They'll be looking at the use of force and deadly force by the police, as well as community interaction.

NCCU Law
Leoneda Inge

A community center near downtown Raleigh was buzzing with activity over the weekend.  It wasn’t kids playing, but instead people getting help making out their wills.

Malinda Holloway, 64, came early for her appointment at Project Will Power at Top Green Community Center on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

Holloway heard about the event at church and decided she wanted a will now, despite resistance from her daughter.

Two men marry on one of the first days that same-sex marriage was legal in N.C.
Alex Miller via Twitter

North Carolina's Republican legislative leaders plan to appeal a ruling that struck down the state's gay marriage ban. Legal experts, though, say any appeal would face an uphill battle.

Decades ago, an "oops" pregnancy might have meant a rush to the altar. But when Michelle Sheridan got pregnant three years ago, the topic of marriage never came up with her boyfriend, Phillip Underwood, whom she lives with in Frederick, Md.

If anything, it was the opposite.

"It changes the dynamic of the household," she says. "I had a friend who put off her marriage. Got pregnant, and she's like, 'Let's just wait, 'cause we don't know if we're going to be able to make it through this.' "

Cheyenne and Tish at the Durham County Register of Deeds. Monday 10/13/14
Reema Khrais

On Friday, a federal judge in Asheville struck down the state's gay marriage ban, opening the way for the first same-sex weddings in the state.  U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn, Jr. issued a ruling shortly after 5:00 p.m. declaring the ban approved by state voters in 2012 unconstitutional. A few weddings happened late on Friday, more on Monday and Tuesday.

Marcie (left) and Chantelle Fisher-Borne, adoption day. Monday 10/14/14
Reema Khrais

Marcie and Chantelle Fisher-Borne have been together for 18 years. They have two kids, 6-year-old Miley and 2-year-old Elijah. Marcie Fisher-Borne gave birth to Miley and Chantelle Fisher-Borne gave birth to Eli. So each parent has been considered a 'legal stranger' to one of their kids.

They were at the Durham County Courthouse Monday because same-sex marriage is now legal in North Carolina. And that means they can adopt as a family.

The Rev. John L. Saxon presided over the marriage of Lynn Gaskins, 31, left, and Christy Alston, 34, outside of the Wake County Justice Center
Jorge Valencia

Dozens of same-sex couples have been rushing to county courthouses throughout the state to get married.

While many say they're full of excitement, there are also some nerves: Questions about what it means to get married, and what their family will legally look like.

Some who oppose gay marriage are also making their voices heard.

Lynn Gaskins and Christy Alston got married in Raleigh on Monday. Even after the ceremony, Alston was edgy.

"I'm nervous. Still nervous. It's a big responsibility. I can't believe I'm married now. Wow."

Ronald Williams (left) and David Moore, partners of 36 years, received their wedding license Monday 10/13/2014
Jeff Tiberii

Many same-sex couples across the state received wedding licenses today after a federal judge ruled late Friday that North Carolina's ban on same sex marriage was unconstitutional. Although it's a federal holiday, county officials were at work processing marriage applications this morning. Many couples held ceremonies immediately afterward, while others are waiting until later this week.

Many around the state were on pins and needles Friday, wondering if the state's gay marriage ban would be lifted. WUNC was tracking the information, and reporting all throughout the day.

Update Friday 6:05 p.m.:

A federal judge in Asheville has struck down the state's gay marriage ban, opening the way for the first same-sex weddings in the state to begin immediately.  U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn, Jr. issued a ruling shortly after 5:00 p.m. declaring the ban approved by state voters in 2012 unconstitutional.  

Gov. Pat McCrory says he's glad the court battle over gay marriage is finished.

U.S. District Court Judge Max Cogburn, Jr. from Asheville overturned the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage late Friday.

McCrory was in Chapel Hill yesterday at UNC's University Day Celebration. The Republican told Carolina Connection he'll uphold the right for gay North Carolinians to marry.

crime scene tape
Ian Britton / Flickr/Creative Commons

There have been 17 murders in Durham so far this year, a number that is pretty average for the past five years or so in the city.  But the Durham Police Department isn't just focusing on investigations that are current, they are also making an effort to investigate more than 150 murders that are still unsolved. 

Sergeant David Piatt, with the Homicide Investigation Unit is keenly aware that the families of those victims are still waiting for answers,.

"I don't think you can say one person is more important than the other.  They all deserve closure,"  he says.

Remains of the records, shred this week by the Durham County Clerk of Courts.
Durham County Sheriff's Office

Gun rights groups are cheering the destruction of an 80-year-old registry of gun owners in Durham County, N.C.

A law passed this summer abolished the county registry: the only one in the state of North Carolina. It contained thousands of registrations, dating back to 1935. After the registry was discontinued this year, it became unclear who actually controlled the archive.

Chantelle and Marcie Fisher-Borne and family
Jorge Valencia

Craig Johnson and Shawn Long are being cautious. The U.S. Supreme Court's refusal on Monday to hear five pending same-sex marriage cases could possibly lead to gay marriage in North Carolina -- if a federal judge in Greensboro issues an order for it.

Still, Johnson and Long are making plans. If they are allowed to marry, they plan to do it quickly, and not waste time making elaborate plans.

Debra Blackmon, 56, is requesting compensation for a sterilization performed on her in 1972.
Eric Mennel / WUNC

In 2013, North Carolina lawmakers set up a $10 million compensation fund for victims of state-sponsored eugenics. More than 780 people applied, claiming they had been forcibly or coercively sterilized by the state. Now, after an initial review, the state has decided only about 200 of those claims are valid, while more than 500 have come up short. The applicants are either denied outright or are asked for more information.

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