Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Unanimous Life Verdict in Lee County

Today, a jury returned a unanimous life verdict in the case of Brian McQueen in Lee County. McQueen had been convicted in a robbery-murder of a convenience store clerk. McQueen had a very low IQ and other mental health issues.

Some press about the case from the Sanford Herald, here.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Wake County Jury -- Returns Life Again!

A wake jury returns verdict of Life in case of Armond Devega in late-May.

This is the fifth time in seven years that Wake County Juries have rejected the death sentence, at an enormous expense to the taxpayers of Wake County. No one was sentenced to death from Wake in that time.

The case was extensively reported on. Read the story here

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Conservatives Spend Big to Spread Lies About Justice Hudson

From The News and Observer, Editorial, April 30, 2014.

Big-money PAC presents a scurrilous attack on Justice Robin Hudson

Read more here:
Justice for All North Carolina is an independent political group out to defeat Democrats in judicial elections in North Carolina. The group might have the distinction now of being responsible for the most repugnant ad in this election cycle.

Justice for All is favored by a right-wing group called the Republican State Leadership Committee. The committee recently provided $650,000 to Justice for All, which has launched a vicious attack ad on incumbent Supreme Court Justice Robin Hudson. The group has a nationwide effort going to defeat judges it deems to be too liberal and to replace them with ideological conservatives.

The RSLC has in the past gotten money from, among others, the Koch brothers, Charles and David, billionaires from a Kansas-based family business involved in oil and a host of endeavors. The Kochs have funded far-flung, and far-right, political advertising all over the United States.

In this latest attack, a black-and-white commercial accuses Hudson of siding with child molesters in one ruling. In fact, the state high court ruled in a 2010 decision that convicted child molesters could be subject to being electronically monitored even if they had been convicted before the monitoring law was passed. Hudson was part of a dissent.

Hudson took the view that applying the new law to those previously convicted fell under the category of an ex-post facto law, a law that institutes retroactive punishment. That might be something conservatives would like to be able to do, but it happens to be unconstitutional in the United States.

Hudson made her call based on her interpretation of the Constitution, exactly what a justice is supposed to do.

But now, Justice for All North Carolina is using a deceptive ad to attack Hudson, a respected incumbent and sound justice, by simplifying what happened and going straight for a claim that Hudson “sides with child predators.” The point is to knock Hudson out of the race in the primary stage. Her opponents are Republicans Eric Levinson, a Superior Court judge, and Jeanette Doran, a lawyer who has worked for a conservative group connected to ... drum roll ... Art Pope, GOP funder-in-chief and Gov. Pat McCrory’s powerful budget director.

Some of the same money sources that helped dump this trash into the living rooms of North Carolinians also supported the unfortunate campaign of incumbent Justice Paul Newby, who defeated a Supreme Court challenge from the respected Judge Sam J. Ervin IV in 2012 thanks to millions of dollars in outside money and the regrettable “banjo ad” talking about how Newby would be tough on crime.

It was amateurish and insulting to the intelligence of voters, but money talked, and Newby won.

The aim of such ads, which are appearing more frequently these days in supposedly nonpartisan judicial races, is to politicize the judiciary, making sure those seeking election to judgeships will pledge their loyalty to conservative ideology.

The ad against Hudson reaches a new low in terms of negative campaigning. It really does. She sides with child molesters?

Ideally, a political party would reject this kind of thing outright. But we doubt the state GOP will do the right thing and reject these maneuvers. No, too many party leaders apparently side with the deceivers. That is unfair to the voters of North Carolina and to the state itself.

Monday, April 14, 2014

NC Supreme Court Criminal Decisions, April 11, 2014

State v. Barnes. Per curiam affirmed, Wayne County, Christopher Barnes. (unpublished COA decision, no legal affect).

State v. Stokes.  Appeal of unanimous unpublished decision of COA vacating conviction for kidnapping.

COA erred in failing to determine, when vacating kidnapping for insufficient evidence, if there was sufficient evidence for a lesser included offense. If so, they should remand on judgment for that offense. Because there was sufficient evidence of attempted 2d kidnapping, reverse for entry of judgment and resentencing on lesser included of attempted 2d kidnapping.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Supreme Court to hear Racial Justice Act Cases Monday

On Monday, April 14, 2014 at 9:30 a.m., the N.C. Supreme Court will hear the cases of four defendants — Marcus Robinson, Tilmon Golphin, Quintel Augustine and Christina Walters — who were removed from death row in 2012 under the N.C. Racial Justice Act. Later this year, the justices will decide whether to uphold the N.C. Superior Court’s decision to resentence the four inmates to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole because of pervasive racial bias in their trials. The state appealed the decision, despite being unable to rebut the compelling evidence presented by the defendants in their 2012 hearing.
The case so far

Robinson, Golphin, Augustine and Walters were the first of North Carolina’s approximately 150 death row inmates to have their cases heard under the Racial Justice Act, a groundbreaking law intended to root out racial discrimination in capital cases. All four defendants proved that racial bias infected their trials and that African-Americans are systematically denied the right to serve on capital juries.

During their 2012 hearings, the defendants presented evidence that prosecutors in Cumberland County, where they were tried, took racially charged notes during the jury selection process (noting, for example, that one juror was a “black wino”). Cumberland prosecutors also participated in a training seminar, sponsored by the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, where prosecutors from across North Carolina were taught ways to get around the law barring them from striking jurors based on race. After listening to weeks of testimony and sorting through documents and statistics that spanned decades, Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks said he found “a wealth of evidence showing the persistent, pervasive, and distorting role of race in jury selection throughout North Carolina.”

The Racial Justice Act was enacted in 2009, on the heels of the exonerations of three black men on North Carolina’s death row. The law allowed inmates who prove that racial bias contributed to their death sentences to be resentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Most of North Carolina’s death row inmates filed claims under the law, after a study from Michigan State University found that qualified black jurors in North Carolina were more than twice as likely as whites to be removed from juries by prosecutors, with the use of peremptory strikes. The Michigan State researchers reviewed 173 capital trials in North Carolina between 1990 and 2010.

Despite the compelling evidence of racial bias presented by Robinson, Golphin, Augustine and Walters — the only four defendants to have their cases heard under the law — state legislators repealed the Racial Justice Act in 2013. However, the claims made under the law are still pending, and the courts will decide whether those cases go forward. Next week’s hearings are expected to address only the four defendants whose cases have been appealed.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Jonathan Richardson Sentenced to Death

Yesterday, a jury sentenced Jonathan Richardson to death in Johnston County. The case was covered extensively in media outlets.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Juan Rodriguez Sentenced to Death

Last week, a Forsyth County Jury sentenced Juan Rodriguez to death in the killing and decapitation of his wife. The jury took a little over 2 hours to impose the sentence and rejected all proposed mitigating factors in the case.

There were many reasons to doubt in Mr. Rodriguez' case. A medical examiner placed the time of death in the case after Mr. Rodriguez had already been arrested. Mr. Rodriguez had a well documented history of mental retardation -- and an IQ of 61, which should have made him ineligible for death. The jury rejected this evidence. The jury then rejected strong mitigation evidence of Mr. Rodriguez's low intellectual functioning, his post-traumatic stress from growing up in war torn El Savador in unbelieveable poverty.

Notably, the victim's family opposed the death penalty--opposition which was ignored by the Forsyth District Attorney.