On Tuesday, August 11th Session officially adjourned for 2009. The North Carolina House and Senate will reconvene on May 12, 2010 at 12 noon.
On Monday evening, the House concurred in the Senate's amended version of HB 1261 Protect Our Kids/ Cyber Bullying Misdemeanor. While the ACLU-NC was able to secure a number of changes to the bill, there are still very real free speech concerns about the bill as passed. The bill makes it a class 1 or 2 misdemeanor, depending on the accused's age, to send repeated communications to a minor, or to post real or doctored photos or post private or personal info about a minor with the intent to intimidate or torment the minor. While some of the more objectionable provisions - prohibiting communications that embarrass the minor or sending repeated insults to or about a minor - were removed by the Senate, the bill is still too vague. The Constitution demands that, in the area of free speech, the law be clear enough so that individuals are on notice of what communications violate the statute and must not permit or encourage arbitrary or discriminatory enforcement. By not defining "intimidate" or "torment," the law gives unfettered discretion to law enforcement officers to determine what those terms mean to them. In the area of speech making sure that laws are clear is especially important so that people can easily discern the distinction between criminal activity and the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights.
However, on the bright side, Governor Perdue signed the Racial Justice Act in to law on Tuesday during a public signing ceremony. The new law will allow capital defendants and death row inmates the opportunity to challenge the sentence of death if they can show that race played a substantial role in them being tried capitally or being sentenced to death. If the judge agrees that race played a substantial role, she or he may reduce the sentence to life in prison without the possibility of parole.