Law

A hog waste lagoon in Beaufort County, NC.
DefMo / Flickr Creative Commons

Two weeks ago, 10 Bladen county residents were awarded $5 million each in punitive damages after winning a hog nuisance lawsuit against Murphy-Brown/Smithfield Foods. This week U.S. District Judge Earl Britt severely cut the award. Instead of the millions they were expecting, the plaintiffs will each get only $250,000.

A sample REAL ID, with the identifying gold star.
https://www.ncdot.gov/dmv/driver/realid/ / NCDOT

It's been a year since North Carolina began offering REAL ID cards in compliance with federal law, which requires extra documentation to get the card.

Pigs on a Farm
Eric Mennel / WUNC

A federal judge has slashed $50 million in damages that a jury awarded neighbors of an industrial hog operation in order to punish a pork producer for smells and noise so bad that people couldn't enjoy their rural homes.

photo of a drone against a blue sky
Don McCullough / Flickr Creative Commons

Across North Carolina, police departments in urban and rural areas are getting into the drone game. A statewide de facto moratorium on law enforcement drone use ended in 2015. Since then the technology has become more affordable and police departments are purchasing the aerial tools for a range of reasons – from chasing down suspects to showing off to kids at community events.

Henry McCollum, left, spent 30 years, 11 months and seven days on death row. Leon Brown was imprisoned at the age of 15 and spend the first decade in solitary confinement. In 2014 the men were released after DNA evidence implicated another man.
Courtesy of Patrick Megaro

In 1983, an 11-year-old girl was raped and killed in Red Springs, North Carolina. Half brothers Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, teenagers at the time, initially confessed to the crime, but later recanted saying they were coerced. They spent 31 years in prison until DNA from the crime scene proved them innocent.

photo of a brown lagoon, farm buildings in the background
Bob Nichols / USDA

A federal jury awarded more than $50 million in damages to 10 neighbors of a 15,000-head hog operation in Eastern North Carolina. The residents said the stench and noise from the hog farm made living in their rural homes unenjoyable.

photo of a barbed wire fence
Pxhere / Public Domain

Most state prison employees charged with crimes while on duty get off with little punishment, according to a new review from the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. From 2013-2017, 57 employees were charged, and only four got prison time. 60 percent of criminal charges were dismissed.

photo of David Crane speaking at a podium
Ken Harper

In the 1990s, officials founded five criminal tribunals to seek international justice: four temporary bodies in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Cambodia, and the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands. The first four were put in place to handle specific civil war crimes. Since then, the issue of international criminal justice has faded.

Aug. 25, 2017 image made from video and released by the Asheville, (N.C.) Police Department, Johnnie Jermaine Rush grimaces after officer Christopher Hickman overpowers Rush in a chokehold
Asheville Police Department via AP

Weeks after a North Carolina police beating became public, new footage is revealing what was said in the aftermath of the black pedestrian being punched and choked by the white officer.

A barbed wire fence stock image
Pxhere / Public Domain

Staffing and safety issues inside North Carolina prisons are at a perilous point. In 2017, five corrections officers were killed in violent incidents at Bertie and Pasquotank Correctional Institutions. And according to new reports, the deaths are a symptom of a bigger problem.

photo of Tutu Alicante
Courtesy of Tutu Alicante

Tutu Alicante grew up in Equatorial Guinea, a small nation on the western coast of Central Africa. The country is one of the largest oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa, yet many of its citizens live in extreme poverty. The oil profits stay within the government, and long-serving President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo uses intimidation tactics like imprisonment or even execution to silence his critics.

Annette Elizabeth Allen
For NPR

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on school safety following the mass shooting at Florida's Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The committee is hearing from a Stoneman Douglas teacher as well as from the father of one of the shooting victims, Florida lawmakers and Justice Department officials. Watch the hearing live starting at 9:30 a.m.

photo of sunshine week logo - 'your right to  know'
American Society of News Editors / http://sunshineweek.rcfp.org/sw-logos/

North Carolina law gives citizens the right to all sorts of government data, from state employee emails to the minutes of closed meetings. But how reliable are our state institutions when it comes to delivering that data? That is one question that North Carolina reporters hoped to answer this year for Sunshine Week, an annual nationwide event dedicated to holding government agencies accountable and making citizens aware of their rights to open government data.

The Asheville Police Department badge.
Courtesy of APD

A white police officer whose body camera recorded him beating a black pedestrian he accused of jaywalking has been arrested on assault charges in North Carolina.

picture of Sheriff Sam Page
N.C. Sheriff's Association

There have been more than 10 school shootings in the country so far this year.  As the gun debate rages on Capitol Hill, students around the country have taken things into their own hands staging walkouts and protests.

A hog waste lagoon in Beaufort County, NC.
DefMo / Flickr Creative Commons

Attorneys defending the hog industry against federal lawsuits that claim spraying liquefied animal waste over farm fields has harmed their North Carolina neighbors don't want jurors to hear about alternative methods used to dispose of the waste elsewhere.

Confederate Monuments, Charlottesville, Durham Monument
Leoneda Inge / WUNC

The case of the Durham Eight has reached an end.

 

Durham District Attorney Roger Echols announced Tuesday afternoon he was dropping all charges against the five remaining defendants standing trial for toppling a confederate monument last August.

A silhouette of a young pregnant woman.
Sarah Zucca / flickr.com/photos/livetocreate_photography/12040481414

North Carolina is revising its policy on restraining pregnant inmates during childbirth. The current rules prohibit restraining a woman during the delivery of a child but are ambiguous about when delivery technically begins.

Dante Strobino (at right in jean jacket) takes notes during his trial on Monday, Feb. 19, 2018. Strobino is one of eight people facing charges for toppling a Confederate Monument in downtown Durham last summer.
Lisa Philip / WUNC

Problems identifying protesters on video hindered North Carolina prosecutors on Monday as they sought to hold demonstrators responsible for toppling a Confederate statue last summer.

photo of henderson county courthouse
Todd McDougal / Wikimedia Creative Commons

A brush with the criminal justice system for something as small as a busted tail light or speeding ticket has outlandishly large implications for people who cannot pay the fines, fees and surcharges associated with a court appearance. These costs add up for people, and they add up for the court system too. Last year North Carolina brought in more than $300 million dollars from assessing these charges.

Photo: Reading behind bars
Impact Sports Prison Ministry

This week the North Carolina American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter to state officials asking them to remove “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age of Colorblindness” (The New Press/2012) from the list of banned books in state prisons. The book argues that the U.S. criminal justice system is a contemporary system of racial control.

The Supreme Court has struck down two congressional districts in North Carolina because race played too large a role in their creation.
Rose Trinh / Flickr, Creative Commons

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday delayed a lower-court order that would have forced North Carolina Republican lawmakers to redraw the state's congressional districts by next week because of excessive partisan bias in current lines.

The Supreme Court has struck down two congressional districts in North Carolina because race played too large a role in their creation.
Rose Trinh / Flickr, Creative Commons

North Carolina Republican legislative leaders asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday to block enforcement of an order throwing out the state's congressional map because the lines were too partisan and directing a redraw almost immediately.

gavel at courtroom
William Johnson / US Airforce Photo

A senate committee looking at judicial redistricting and reform will meet Wednesday in Raleigh, a few weeks after Democrats walked out of a previous meeting.

The Republican chairs had refused to allow a retired superior court judge invited by Democrats to address the committee.

Henry McCollum
Michael Biesecker, File / AP

A federal judge said Thursday that he will approve a $1 million payout from a North Carolina town to two half brothers wrongfully imprisoned for 30 years, but the men's attorneys must justify their cut of the proceeds before the court finalizes the settlement.

gavel at courtroom
William Johnson / US Airforce Photo

A new law that took effect last week makes it more difficult for judges to waive fines and fees for people who cannot afford to pay them. Now a judge must issue a 15-day notice to all agencies involved before granting  a waiver. Critics argue this will cause a logistical backlog for the courts and ultimately result in more low-income people going to jail. Proponents say the courts rely on these fees, and the new law will help generate revenue. This law was not directly sponsored by any member of the General Assembly, so it is difficult to distinguish its political supporters.

man in handcuffs
houstondwiphotos / Flickr - Creative Commons - https://flic.kr/p/nQGa3o

Almost one in 20 people jailed in Mecklenburg County last year were held on failure to pay court fines or fees. Now, a new program supported by the MacArthur Foundation is modeling an evidence-based approach to criminal justice reform that changes the way people are assessed, held and released. 

A drawing of fingerprints.
Julienne Alexander / Criminal

In the latest Criminal podcast, we hear about the notorious wrongful conviction of Willie Grimes, who was arrested in Hickory in 1987 on rape and kidnapping charges and spent more than two decades in prison.

Anita Earls, pictured at far left, sits with members of the NC Board of Elections in 2009 as part of the board's investigation into former Governor Mike Easley's campaign committee and the state Democratic Party
Chris Seward / AP

A longtime civil rights attorney who successfully sued in striking down North Carolina's legislative district boundaries for excessive racial bias announced Wednesday she's running for the state Supreme Court next year.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Richard Drew, File / AP

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is back on Capitol Hill for a House Judiciary Committee hearing about his oversight of the Justice Department.

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