Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election 2010

Election Results are in and the Republicans will be overtaking the General Assembly. What does this mean for criminal law?

1) Indigent Defense Services budget. Will the Republicans reduce the budget of IDS? Over the past twenty years, NC has become a provider of some of the best indigent defense in the country, due to the establishment of the independent IDS commission and the Capital Defender's office. Budgetary reductions lead to more qualified lawyers leaving the indigent appointment lists, overworked public defenders, and lower quality criminal defense. Will the Republicans protect the indigent defense system or reduce the quality of representation?

2) Criminal Rights Reform: In the past 20 years, the legislature has passed significant criminal defense reforms, all aimed at preventing wrongful convictions. They passed open-file discovery, IDS commission, the innocence commission, videotaped confessions in murder cases, fair line-up regulations. Will the Republicans continue to push the envelope and take seriously ensuring that innocent persons aren't in our jails?

3) Death Penalty. Significant reforms-- bars to executing the mentally retarded and persons sent to death row in counties that have demonstrated history of racial discrimination in capital process-- were passed in recent years and last session the GA considered seriously a bar to executing the severely mentally ill. Moreover, there has been a de facto moratorium since 2007 that could be legislatively taken away, resulting in immediate executions. Will the Republicans take up the mantle of ensuring fairness in capital sentencing and only execute the worst of the worst?

4) Sentencing. Democrats and Republicans alike have routinely ramped up sentencing for non-violent and violent offenders, to the point that our jails are overcrowded and expensive. Will the Republicans insistitute significant reforms to allow that money to be spent on schools or will the exacerbate the problem, mindlessly increasing sentences across the board and further expanding the enormous prison bureaucracy?

Time will tell.

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