Law

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.

A picture of a handgun being pulled from a purse.
Flickr

The North Carolina General Assembly expanded the rights of concealed-carry permit holders last year. But now, Agriculture officials and gun rights activists disagree about what that means for the State Fair.

Grass Roots North Carolina activists have threatened to sue the Fair, saying that includes the fairgrounds in Raleigh.

The fair has a long standing gun ban. But new language in state law now allows concealed-carry permit holders to have firearms at any assembly where a fee has been charged for admission.

September 2, 2014, Leon Brown on exoneration day.
Jenny Warburg / Death Penalty Information Center

In 1984 Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were both charged with the rape and murder of an 11-year-old girl, Sabrina Buoy. 

McCollum was 19 years old at the time. Brown was 15. Prosecutors said that the two took Buoy into a soy bean field to rape her.

The half-brothers have intellectual disabilities. Both signed written confessions that they later recanted. Both were convicted.

Early Voting
Leoneda Inge

A  federal appeals Court in Charlotte heard arguments Thursday on whether or not changes to North Carolina's voting law can go into effect before the November election. The changes were passed by the Republican-led General Assembly last year. Critics argue the laws restrict access to voting, particularly among minority groups.

The North Carolina NAACP has argued the changes are a violation of the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause, and of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Picture of gavel
Flickr.com

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied child immigrants have turned themselves in at the U.S. Border this year.

Once they’ve been arrested, the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement looks for places to put these kids until their day in immigration court.

The O.R.R. reports 1,648 children were placed in North Carolina between January and August.

Lili Morales is a senior at Northern High School in Durham, N.C. As a part of WUNC's Youth Radio Project, she reports on the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy.  Young people who entered the country illegally with their parents are eligible for the program if they are in school -- but they have to renew every two years.  It's a stressful process for some.

The Supreme Court elections are coming and things are getting interesting (gavel on tabletop).
flickr.com/photos/leviphotos

  

The North Carolina Supreme Court is supposed to be above hyper-partisan politics, but what happens when groups from outside the state become the biggest donors? 

A state police car stopping a motorist
Cindy Cornett Seigle / Flickr/Creative Commons

On Thursday, the Durham City Manager will present the City Council with a recommendation that police officers be required to get consent in writing before searching a vehicle. This is part of a response to months of debate over reports of racial bias in the Durham police department.

Durham Deputy Police Chief Larry Smith would have to implement such a process. Smith recently presented to the city council two examples of how a consent form works now and how a search would work if an officer were required to get consent in writing. 

Geraldine Brown laughs and her brother Henry McCollum, left, wipes away tears as he and his brother Leon Brown, right, stand in her front yard in Fayetteville on Wednesday.
CHUCK LIDDY — cliddy@newsobserver.com |

  

In 1983, Henry McCollum and Leon Brown were convicted of the murder and rape of an 11-year-old girl in Robeson County. 

Photo: Durham Police headquarters
Durham Police

Members of the Durham City Council are trying to address concerns that police officers disproportionately stop and search black men. Four of the seven members gave their support on Thursday afternoon for requiring officers to get a driver's written consent before searching his vehicle.
 

City manager Tom Bonfield has suggested officers should be required to get consent in some recorded form - either video, audio or writing - but Mayor Bill Bell says that overcomplicates things.

Recently Durham City Council heard recommendations from the City Manager on how to improve police and community relations.
Jorge Valencia

In Durham, the City Council could vote Tuesday night to change some policies for the police department.

At least two council members suggest the city manager's recent recommendations do not go far enough to improve the relationship between police officers and the community.

Durham Mayor Pro Tem Cora Cole-McFadden spoke on WUNC’s The State of Things Tuesday. She took issue with a recommendation which would allow officers to decide whether they need to get written consent before searching an individual.

Patricia Timmons-Goodson
Duke University Law School

This summer President Obama appointed former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Patricia Timmons-Goodson to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.  The Commission, an eight member panel, is charged with developing federal civil rights policy.  

Timmons-Goodson was the first African American female appointed to the North Carolina Supreme Court.  She spoke with  Phoebe Judge about the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and changes in North Carolina's voting rights laws, among other topics.

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

Police in Fayetteville say they will work with other local authorities to crack down on human trafficking in North Carolina. 

The Cumberland County District Attorney joined Fayetteville's mayor and police chief this week to renew their efforts to fight traffickers. 

The state's largest cities have reported several cases in recent months that involved kidnappings and forcing victims into prostitution. 

Fayetteville police chief Harold Medlock says the crime is not new in North Carolina, but authorities need to collaborate more to catch offenders.

Prison cell
DOliphant via Flickr

This November voters in North Carolina will decide whether people accused of felonies should have the opportunity to decide whether they want a judge or jury to decide their case. Jeff Welty, an associate professor in the School of Government at the University of North Carolina, has been studying the potential implications this constitutional amendment may have on the state.  He talked with Phoebe Judge.

Conversation highlights:

Why has it taken North Carolina so long to address the issue?

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

A North Carolina judge has ordered a man to be released from prison after serving 20 years of eight life sentences.  An attorney says 57-year-old Michael Alan Parker was released from Craggy Correctional Center near Asheville today. 

Parker was convicted in 1994 of 12 counts of sex crimes against his children, performed in a ritualistic manner. 

His defense attorney Sean Devereux asked for a new trial after doctors reviewed medical evidence.  Henderson County District Attorney Greg Newman says advancements in forensic investigations swayed the judge's decision.

License plates, tag.
NC DOT

A federal judge says he will not dismiss a lawsuit against the North Carolina DMV that accuses the department of discriminating against drivers with disabilities. 

The complaint was filed by the group Disability Rights North Carolina

It says DMV workers are using the state's Medical Evaluation Program to target disabled drivers for further review when they apply for licenses. 

The program allows anyone to request a medical evaluation if he or she believes a driver can not safely operate a motor vehicle. 

Federal Building Winston-Salem
Jeff Tiberii / WUNC

  The trial of Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson is expected to conclude Friday in federal court. The U.S. Department of Justice brough a lawsuit against the sheriff, accusing him to have profiled Latinos by ordering road-blocks in minority neighborhoods, and for calling on his deputies to arrest and detain Hispanics, without probable cause. He denied those claims Thursday, taking the witness stand in his own defense. Federal prosecutors tried to call Johnson's credibility into question by repeatedly trying to impeach him under cross examination.

A portrait og Tom Bonfield
City of Durham

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield is recommending that the Police Department require officers to complete racial equality training.

It's just one of dozens of points from a 131-page report his office compiled in response to complaints of racial bias and profiling within the department.

City Manager Tom Bonfield wrote that he reviewed the recommendations with the police department and six community advocacy groups.

Defense attorneys will call more witnesses today at a federal trial alleging racial profiling by the Alamance County Sheriff.

Among the possible witnesses is Sam Page, an outspoken supporter of border control and increased deportations.

Youth Radio: Dads In Prison

Aug 18, 2014
Aysia Evans and her father
WUNC

The following is from WUNC's Youth Radio project reporter Chelsea Korynta.

When I was 15, my father was sentenced to three months in prison. I was one of the 2.7 million Americans under 18 with a parent who’s incarcerated. In 2013, Sesame Street even created a series of videos starring a Muppet named “Alex,” whose dad is in jail.

Federal Building, Winston-Salem
Jessica Jones

The U.S. Department of Justice has accused Sheriff Johnson of racially profiling and illegally detaining members of the Hispanic community. Yesterday attorneys for the federal government called John Lamberth, a social psychologist, to the stand. He's an expert on racial profiling.

Lamberth conducted a study using data from 2008 to 2013 showing that Hispanics in Alamance County were seven times more likely to be given tickets than other people.

Alamance County Sheriff's vehicle
Alamance County Sheriff's Office

Today is the second day of the federal trial for Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson. Several current and former sheriff's deputies took the stand yesterday.

The U.S. Justice Department has accused Johnson of racial profiling and arresting and detaining members of the Hispanic community without probable cause.

Several past and present law enforcement officials testified on the opening day of the trial yesterday. It was held in federal district court in Winston-Salem.

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