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

The U.S. Department of Justice has provided new guidelines to U.S. attorneys for how to handle the cases of federal inmates in North Carolina who remain incarcerated even though, under a 2011 court ruling, they are either innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted or eligible for a reduced sentence. The change in policy came on August 9, two days after the American Civil Liberties Union and its North Carolina affiliate submitted a letter to top Justice Department officials asking them to immediately take action to identify and assist potentially thousands of inmates whose sentences were affected under an August 2011 ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Simmons.

The Department’s partial guidance instructs U.S. attorneys to waive certain arguments that, in the year since Simmons was decided, it has been using to bar or delay relief for people who were unjustly convicted under pre-Simmons law. But the government has yet to agree to waive those arguments for people who were unjustly sentenced—sometimes to huge mandatory minimum or “career offender” sentences—under pre-Simmons law.

“This is an encouraging first step and promising news for those who were unjustly convicted. But much more has to be done to obtain justice for those who were wrongly incarcerated,” said Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation. “This new policy does not help all of the thousands of inmates whose sentences could be affected by the Simmons decision. We continue to urge the Justice Department to take a proactive stance toward identifying and assisting all those who may be unjustly languishing in prison.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union and its North Carolina affiliate sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole yesterday urging the Department of Justice to take immediate action to identify and assist all federal inmates in North Carolina who remain incarcerated even though, under a 2011 court ruling, they are either innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted or eligible for a reduced sentence.

A USA Today investigation published in June found more than 60 men who are in prison for violating federal gun possession laws, even though a 2011 decision by the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Simmons has since found that it was not a federal crime for them to have a gun. A preliminary review conducted by the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, including conversations with attorneys representing clients eligible for relief under Simmons in each of North Carolina’s three federal judicial districts, found that more than 3,000 federal prisoners in the state are potentially innocent or entitled to a reduced sentence under Simmons.

In a letter signed by Chris Brook, Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation; Laura Murphy, Director of the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office; and Jesselyn McCurdy, senior legislative counsel in the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office, the ACLU explains that the precise number of inmates whose convictions or sentences are implicated by Simmons remains unknown. “Worse yet,” the letter reads, “when the government has been informed of inmates whose convictions or sentences are impacted by Simmons, its stance has been affirmatively hostile to relief.”

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The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) joined 37 other state ACLU affiliates today in sending requests to local police departments and state agencies that demand information on how they use automatic license plate readers (ALPR) to track and record Americans’ movements. The request was sent to 63 law enforcement agencies throughout North Carolina, including the counties of Alamance, Brunswick, Buncombe, Durham, Forsyth, Guilford, New Hanover, Orange, Pitt and Wake, as well as the cities of Asheville, Burlington, Cary, Chapel Hill, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Durham, Fayetteville, Greensboro, Greenville, High Point, Raleigh, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.

In addition, the national ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed federal Freedom of Information Act requests with the departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Transportation to learn how the federal government funds ALPR expansion nationwide and uses the technology itself.

ALPRs are cameras mounted on patrol cars or on stationary objects along roads – such as telephone poles or the underside of bridges – that snap a photograph of every license plate that enters their fields of view. Typically, each photo is time, date, and GPS-stamped, stored, and sent to a database, which provides an alert to a patrol officer whenever a match or “hit” appears.

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. – A North Carolina judge Friday issued a landmark decision finding intentional and systemic discrimination by state prosecutors against African-American potential jurors in capital cases and commuted the sentence of a death-row prisoner to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The decision on behalf of Marcus Robinson by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Gregory Weeks, the first to be issued under the state’s historic Racial Justice Act, comes nearly 25 years to the day after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in McCleskey v. Kemp that evidence of systemic bias is not sufficient to challenge a death sentence.

Passed in 2009, the Racial Justice Act allows North Carolina’s 157 death row prisoners a hearing in which they can present statistics and other evidence that death sentences state- and county-wide were tainted by race discrimination and that their death should be commuted to life in prison.

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