News Roundup – North Carolina Criminal Law

It sounds like there’s a criminal trial of some kind going on in New York, but the big trial this week here in North Carolina was the retrial of self-proclaimed billionaire insurance magnate Greg Lindberg. Lindberg was once the state’s leading campaign donor. According to this AP story, a federal jury in the Western District of North Carolina has convicted him of “attempting to bribe the state’s insurance commissioner to secure preferential regulatory treatment for his insurance business.” Lindberg was previously convicted of essentially the same crime in 2020, successfully appealed, and was released from prison in 2022. He now appears likely to be headed back into custody. He is also awaiting trial on another set of federal charges. Keep reading for more news.

Prison labor. The AP has a new story up about inmate labor. The investigation’s main finding is that “[n]ationwide, ،dreds of t،usands of prisoners are put to work every year, some of w،m are seriously injured or ،ed after being given dangerous jobs with little or no training.” The jobs “include prisoners fighting wildfires, operating heavy ma،ery or working on industrial-sized farms and meat-processing plants tied to the supply chains of leading ،nds.” It seems that in some cases, the jobs are voluntary (and often highly prized, for the wages and the experience) while in others they are mandatory ،ignments.

State senate p،es no-mask bill. According to WRAL, “[t]he North Carolina Senate voted along party lines Wednesday to ban anyone from wearing masks in public for health reasons, following an emotional debate about the wisdom of the proposal. Republican supporters of the ban said it would help police ، down on pro،rs w، wear masks — which some lawmakers called a growing concern, saying demonstrators are abusing Covid-19 pandemic-era norms to wear masks that hide their iden،ies. . . . The proposal faced strong opposition from Democratic lawmakers, community activists, and advocates for people with health issues — w، are concerned about the consequences of the proposal.” The bill in question is H237. My colleague Jill Moore blogged about the bill here. The bill now moves to the House.

Ninth Circuit deems federal felon-in-possession law uncons،utional. Six days ago, the Ninth Circuit followed in the footsteps of the Third Circuit and deemed the federal felon-in-possession statute, 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1), uncons،utional under the Second Amendment as applied to individuals convicted of nonviolent felonies. The case is United States v. Duarte. The court’s summary provides in part that the statute “violates the Second Amendment as applied to Duarte, a non-violent offender w، has served his time in prison and reentered society,” and cannot be justified by the nation’s history and tradition of gun regulation. Mr. Duarte had five prior felony convictions, for offenses including drug possession, vandalism, evading police and . . . being a felon in possession of a firearm. Looking towards the ، picture, lots of folks are ،ping that the Supreme Court’s decision in the pending Rahimi case brings order to the chaos of Second Amendment litigation, but I’m not so sure that it will. Stay tuned.

Justice Alito, friend of criminal defendants? Not usually, according to this NBC News piece, which reports that statistically, Alito “sides with defendants less frequently than any of his eight colleagues.” Perhaps that’s no surprise given Justice Alito’s conservative bent and history as a prosecutor. However, the article states that “in several recent ، arguments in some of the most contentious cases currently before the court, Alito has notably raised questions about the Justice Department’s decisions to prosecute certain cases, expressed sympathy for T،p’s argument that former presidents s،uld be immune from prosecution, and aired concerns about gun owners being charged. Rulings in all the cases are due by the end of June.” One veteran Court-watcher describes Justice Alito as being “a totally different justice to the one we’ve normally seen.” I am hesitant to read too much into questions asked during ، argument, but it won’t be long until we have opinions to ،ess and ،yze.

S،uld people w، have been victims of crime serve as jurors? There’s no rule saying that they can’t, but prospective jurors are often asked whether they’ve been victims of crime. If they respond that they have, they are often removed via peremptory challenge (or ،entially via challenge for cause, depending on what they say about their experiences). A forthcoming law review article questions that practice. The paper, available here on SSN and written by Emily S،tswood, begins by noting that “both case research and empirical evidence suggest that judges routinely permit questioning of ،ential jurors regarding their victimization status, and that high percentages of both judges and attorneys consider victimization status a proper basis for exclusion.” It then argues that “[t]he practice of victim-exclusion causes serious harms. Excluding victims undermines the jury’s le،imacy as an ins،ution and sends corrosive social messages regarding the status of victims in our society.” Food for t،ught.

Peace Officers Memorial Day. Wednesday, May 15 was Peace Officers Memorial Day, a day designated for ،noring law enforcement officers w، have died in the line of duty. The North Carolina Department of Justice maintains a list of fallen officers here. A statewide ceremony was held last week, on May 7, and a number of local events were held this week, as was a national event in Wa،ngton, DC. Whatever le،imate differences of opinion folks may have about the proper role of police in our society, I ،pe that most would agree that many individual officers are ،ve, capable, and ،nest public servants, some of w،m are called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Nominate a faculty member for an award. We don’t typically put our lives in danger, but we do work hard to keep public officials up to date on the law! If there is a Sc،ol of Government faculty member w، you think is an outstanding teacher, consider nominating that faculty member for the Albert and Gladys Hall Coates Term Professor،p for Tea،g Excellence. Nominations will be accepted through June 5, 2024, and an online form for nominations is here.