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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Due Process

CHARLOTTE – A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer shot and killed an unarmed man who was running toward him after being involved in a car accident Saturday morning. The officer has been charged with voluntary manslaughter.

In response, Chris Brook, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation, released the following statement:  

“The fatal shooting of Jonathan Ferrell by a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer is profoundly tragic and deeply disturbing. As Chief Monroe stated this weekend, it is clear that the officer in question used excessive force. This tragic incident is a powerful reminder of why the citizens of Charlotte must have access to effective tools that will provide civilian review of police conduct and promote accountability within the department. There are two actions that Charlotte officials should take, without delay, to increase civilian oversight and make officers more accountable to the citizens they are sworn to serve and protect: First, the city should take immediate steps to reform its ineffectual Citizens Review Board, which in 15 years has held only four hearings and never once ruled against the police department or for a citizen complainant. Second, officials should treat any footage taken by the cameras now being worn by some CMPD officers to record their interactions with citizens as a public record and make these recordings accessible to the public. The citizens of Charlotte must be allowed to review the actions of their police officers in meaningful ways that will provide oversight, hold appropriate parties accountable, and make everyone in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg area safer and more secure.”

By Joe McLean, ACLU-NC Legal Intern

When he signed the General Assembly’s budget on July 26, Governor Pat McCrory should have considered that he was further weakening the institution that protects one of our state’s most vulnerable populations – and, in doing so, the state may be violating a constitutional right.

Prisoner Legal Services is a non-profit law firm that is tasked with providing free legal assistance to people incarcerated by the Department of Corrections and responding to claims from more than 37,000 inmates in the state. The organization had its beginnings in 1986, after a federal court ordered North Carolina to create PLS to provide inmates with access to the court system. Throughout its history, PLS has sought justice for inmates who have no other options. In 2005, for example, the organization reached a settlement on behalf of women who were beaten and assaulted by other inmates while prison authorities did nothing. In 2009, PLS sued prison administrators to remedy pervasive problems of rape, groping, threatening, and humiliation of female inmates.

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RALEIGH – On Wednesday, June 5, the North Carolina House of Representatives approved S.B. 306, a bill that seeks to restart executions in North Carolina and would repeal the Racial Justice Act (RJA), a historic civil rights law that seeks to address racial bias in the state’s death penalty system by allowing death-row inmates to appeal their sentences and receive life without parole if they can show that race was a factor in their sentencing. The North Carolina Senate has already approved the bill once, and it now goes back to the Senate for concurrence.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) released the following statement:

“The Racial Justice Act has made it possible to shine a light on widespread and indisputable evidence of racial bias in North Carolina’s death penalty system that needs to be addressed,” said ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Preston. “It would be beyond tragic if North Carolina turns its back on that evidence and haphazardly rushes to restart executions, knowing full well that our capital punishment process is plagued by racial bias and other flaws that might very well lead to the execution of innocent people. Even those who support the death penalty should agree that capital sentences must be handed down impartially and with respect for due process, yet this bill makes it harder, if not impossible, to achieve that goal.”

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By Esha Bhandari, ACLU Equal Justice Works Fellow

This week's New Yorker features the harrowing ordeal of Mark Lyttle, a U.S. citizen with mental disabilities who was deported to Mexico. Lyttle was born in North Carolina and has psychiatric and cognitive disabilities. He was inexplicably referred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in 2008 after being misidentified as an undocumented immigrant from Mexico even though he had never been to Mexico, shared no Mexican heritage, and did not speak any Spanish. As the New Yorker article notes, "Lyttle is brown-skinned," and "the vagaries of race and ethnicity obviously played a part" in causing him to be singled out for immigration enforcement.

ICE detained Lyttle for 51 days, despite substantial evidence that he is a U.S. citizen, and put him in removal proceedings, where he was forced to defend himself without ever having the assistance of a lawyer. Lyttle was ordered removed in December 2008, and forced to cross the Mexican border on foot with only $3 in his pocket. Lyttle endured 125 days wandering through Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala, sleeping in streets and shelters, and even being imprisoned in a Honduran jail, before he was finally referred to a U.S. consular officer in Guatemala who actually listened to his story. The officer obtained confirmation of Lyttle's U.S. citizenship by calling one of his brothers who serves in the U.S. military. Only through the extensive efforts of Lyttle's family and a lawyer was he finally able to return.

Lyttle's tale is unfortunately far from unique. Although no exact numbers exist, ICE regularly detains and deports U.S. citizens without ever providing them with a lawyer. And the U.S. continues to run a system of detention and deportation that fails adequately to protect the rights of vulnerable individuals like Lyttle.

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