Falling through the Justice Web

There has been no shortage of criminal justice officials falling on their swords over administrative foul-ups leading up to the death of Eve Carson. I’m not sure whether I’m impressed with the candor, or suspicious and cynical seeing political appointees rushing to get ahead of the story. Robert Guy, head of corrections in North Carolina has acknowledged that probation supervision for Demario James Atwater was far too minimal given the severe nature of his offenses. The Raleigh courts admitted, “We did a number of things wrong” in allowing the suspect to skip a sentencing hearing when he should have been locked up. This morning the Herald Sun reports that a plea deal brokered by the Durham DA’s office for Laurence Alvin Lovette, Jr. shouldn’t have happened in the first place; Lovette should have been convicted with a felony, but had his case plead down to a misdemeanor. Had the felony stuck, Lovette would have been in jail and never had the opportunity to cross paths with Carson.

The case involved a breaking-and-entering in the Hope Valley district of Durham. Had the felony stuck, the victims of the theft would have been notified of any pending actions against Lovette. The the homeowners argue that they would have then been sure to warn the DA that Lovette was an at-risk offender. Because the case was plead down to a misdemeanor – and because of inconsistencies in interpretation of state victim rights legislation – Durham does not have to notify misdemeanors victims of any pending actions against offenders.

How inconsistent is the victims’ legislation? Consider this: had the breaking-and-entering occurred ten miles away in Orange county, Eve Carson would possibly be alive today. That’s because the Orange county DA sends notification to all victims of crime regardless of the severity of the offense. Whether its your life or your sandwich that is stolen; if the DA has a case file, the victim or their representative will be notified of any movement on that file. As a victims representative in Orange DA Jim Woodall’s office explained to me, “we send notifications out to 100% of all victims, whether they want to be notified or not”.

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Note: I’m not particularly obsessed with this, I just coincidentally happen to be writing a research paper on victim rights legislation. Another lucky coincidence: head of corrections, Robert Guy is speaking in my graduate seminar class in two weeks. I’d be happy to pose any questions you’d propose.

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