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The state Supreme Court issued an opinion today on a rather complex and obscure matter related to the process used in the adoption of the state’s execution “protocol.” The decision serves to highlight once again the fact that the death penalty has not been carried out in the state in more than five years.

This got me thinking: If death penalty proponents like state Rep. Paul Stam are right, this should have produced a spike in crime and killings given the supposed deterrent effect of executions.

Then I looked at the statistics. Read More

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In the days leading up to September 17th, a couple of friends in New York City mentioned something vague about a plan for social justice activists taking action in the city. I didn’t think much of it at the time, or even on the 17th and 18th—I just kept working hard on the issues most pressing here in North Carolina. Then, time passed, the action continued, the weekend came, the numbers in New York City’s financial district swelled, and I saw those videos of peaceful protesters being kettled and pepper-sprayed on a sidewalk September 24th.

At that moment, something changed for me.

I had just witnessed first-hand the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s September 6th arrests of undocumented students and their supporters at an “Undocumented and Unafraid” Rally. At that point, I realized OccupyWallStreet might be related to my life in North Carolina, and I needed to understand more. Read More

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Many on the modern far right would have us believe that human nature and society are essentially immutable — that we are all slaves to social “laws” bequeathed by Milton Friedman and/or the Almighty and there is nothing we can do to collectively, intentionally improve the world (other than to get out of the way of “the invisible hand”).

Fortunately, reality continues to intervene and remind us of myriad ways in which forward-thinking humans continue to intentionally and collectively improve the world. Read More

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Political watchdog Joe Sinsheimer says Attorney General Roy Cooper will have his hands full in restoring the reputation of the State Bureau of Investigation.

On Wednesday, an independent review by two former FBI officials found that analysts at North Carolina’s crime lab omitted, overstated or falsely reported blood evidence in dozens of cases. Here’s an excerpt from the audit:

The factors that contributed to these issues range from poorly crafted policy; lack of objectivity, the absence of clear report writing guidance; inattention to reporting methods that left too much discretion to the individual Analyst: lack of transparency; and ineffective management and oversight of the Forensic Biology Section from 1987 through 2003.

The review comes on the heels of an investigative series by the News & Observer highlighting agents who bent the rules to please prosecutors and laboratory practices out of step with the larger scientific community.

Not only could the findings impact thousands of cases, Sinsheimer believes it could cast a lasting doubt in the minds of some jurors in future cases.

This weekend on “News & Views” Sinsheimer discusses what all of this could mean for NC’s Attorney General and who will likely control the crime lab in the future. For a preview of his interview with Chris Fitzsimon, please click below:

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Click here to read the independent review of the SBI forensic laboratory.