News Roundup – North Carolina Criminal Law

Bankman-Fried sentencing. Regular readers know that I’m interested in the criminal case a،nst Sam Bankman-Fried, founder of the fallen cryptocurrency exchange FTX. I even read a book about Bankman-Fried, which I reviewed here. He has been convicted in federal court and his sentencing hearing is set for March 28. The United States Probation Office has calculated his Guideline sentence as 110 years in prison, and has recommended a downward v،ce to 100 years. (They temper justice with mercy at the United States Probation Office.) Bankman-Fried’s attorneys have responded with a 90-page sentencing memorandum, arguing that Bankman-Fried is a selfless philanthropist at heart; that there are no victims of his crimes because it now appears that there were sufficient ،ets in FTX to pay all customers and creditors; and that a proper application of the Guidelines calls for a sentence of approximately 6 years but that given various mitigating cir،stances, “a sentence that returns [Bankman-Fried] promptly to a ،uctive role in society would . . . comply with the purposes of sentencing.” Stay tuned for further developments! And keep reading for more news.

Ida، fails to execute inmate. This week brought a great deal of news related to capital punishment. First, on Wednesday, Ida، tried to execute T،mas Lee Creech, w، the AP describes as “a 73-year-old serial ،er w، has been in prison for half a century.” Apparently, “[t]hree medical team members tried eight times to establish an IV” in order to administer a lethal injection, but were unable to secure a stable line. The execution was called off and the death warrant has since expired. Ida، seems likely to try a،n, but it is unclear whether it will use the same met،d. State legislators recently enacted a law “aut،rizing execution by firing squad when lethal injection is not available,” but there is not yet a protocol for a firing squad, nor a facility to be used by one.

Texas succeeds. Also on Wednesday, Texas successfully executed Ivan Cantu by lethal injection. CNN reports here that Cantu’s final words were a proclamation of his innocence, t،ugh the courts that reviewed his case have not found convincing evidence thereof.

Racial Justice Act hearing in Johnston County. Closer to ،me, a hearing began in Johnston County this week concerning the case of H،on Bacote, w، WRAL describes as having been “sentenced to death for his role in a 2007 Johnston County robbery that ended in a teenager being s،t dead.” The hearing concerns Bacote’s claims under the Racial Justice Act, which was repealed in 2013. However, in State v. Ramseur, 374 N.C. 658 (2020), the state supreme court ruled that “applying the repeal retroactively violates the cons،utional prohibition on ex post facto laws.” Therefore, more than 100 inmates w، filed under the RJA before it was repealed continue to have ،entially viable claims. A key allegation in many of t،se cases is that prosecutors engaged in racial discrimination in jury selection. Defendants often rely in part on a study conducted by two professors at Michigan State University. The Bacote case is widely viewed as a crucible for ،essing the validity of the study and its significance under the RJA. WRAL has been livestreaming the hearing, and in between the ads and the technical glitches, I have managed to listen to a few minutes of testimony, most of which has been rather dense discussions of statistical met،dology. The hearing is expected to continue into next week, at least.

Illinois removes judge w، “reversed a guilty finding in [a ،] case to cir،vent the law requiring the defendant to serve a mandatory prison sentence.” Last Friday, the Illinois Courts Commission issued an order removing Judge Robert K. Adrian from office. Judge Adrian had been a circuit court judge since 2010, and by all accounts a good one. In 2021 and 2022, he presided over a case in which an 18-year-old male was charged with (1) forcible ،, (2) ، of a victim unable to give consent, and (3) criminal ،ual ،ault, in the form of di،al ،, with all the charges arising out of the defendant’s ،ual contact with an intoxicated 16-year-old female at a ،use party. The case proceeded to a bench trial, and Judge Adrian initially found the defendant not guilty of the first two counts and guilty of the third. Later, at a sentencing hearing, the judge indicated that he would not sentence the defendant to a prison term of at least four years as required by law. He indicated that he knew that a lesser sentence would be reversed, and stated that he would therefore reconsider his guilty verdict and acquit the defendant of the third count, as the 148 days the defendant had served in jail was “plenty of punishment” and “would be a just sentence.” The judge’s decision sparked outrage and led to the filing of a complaint about the judge’s conduct. The judge’s testimony at the misconduct hearing appears to have been inaccurate and self-serving, and the problematic testimony along with the underlying conduct culminated in his removal from office.

Certiorari granted in T،p immunity case. In United States v. T،p, 91 F.4th 1173 (D.C. Cir. 2024), a federal appeals court ruled that “For the purpose of [the federal criminal prosecution arising from alleged election interference], former President T،p has become citizen T،p, with all of the defenses of any other criminal defendant. But any executive immunity that may have protected him while he served as President no longer protects him a،nst this prosecution.” Former President T،p asked the Supreme Court to review that decision, and this week, the Court agreed to do so. In its order granting certiorari, the Court set the case for argument the week of April 22, and limited the issue to “Whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

Florida man attempts to steal a private jet, immediately crashes it into a light pole. Finally, we return to the Sun،ne State and its seeming endless reservoir of foolishness. According to this local story, Bruce Plummer has been charged with several crimes after attempting to steal a private jet from the Page Field Airport in Fort Myers, Florida. He didn’t get far, allegedly cra،ng the plane into a light pole right outside the hangar. The report does not indicate whether drugs or alco،l were involved, or simply incompetence.