Morning Headlines: Thursday, December 17, 2015
2015 On Track For No New Death Sentences In North Carolina
A nonprofit law firm that works on capital punishment cases notes that North Carolina is headed toward the end of 2015 with no new death sentences for the year.
The Durham-based Center for Death Penalty Litigation said that 2015 is on track to be only the second year since 2012 that juries didn't send anyone to death row.
It's also been nearly a decade since North Carolina's last execution in 2006 because of factors including various legal challenges.
The center says that in the 1990s, North Carolina typically imposed more than 20 new death sentences per year.
Death Penalty Litigation Executive Director Gretchen M. Engel said that a decrease in death sentences shows society understands that the capital punishment system can make mistakes as execution numbers are dropping around the country.
N. Carolina Sen. Hartsell Won't Run For Re-Election After All
The longest-serving current member of the North Carolina state Senate has decided he won't run for re-election after all.
Republican Sen. Fletcher Hartsell of Concord withdrew his name as a candidate late Wednesday after filing earlier this month to seek a 14th term. The Cabarrus County election board website confirmed the withdrawal.
In a news release, Hartsell says he's 68 years old and wants to spend more time with his grandchildren and other interests.
Hartsell joined the Senate in 1991.
The State Board of Elections last June referred an investigation of Hartsell's campaign finances to state and federal prosecutors. The board's review scrutinized the use of campaign contributions for personal expenses. Board attorney Josh Lawson says the board is continuing to cooperate with prosecutors.
FBI Searches N. Carolina Homes Of Planned Parenthood Suspect
The FBI searched two western North Carolina residences once occupied by the man charged with attacking a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic.
FBI spokeswoman Shelley Lynch said in an email that agents searched properties Tuesday in Swannanoa and Black Mountain where Robert Dear had lived. She said agents were assisting the FBI's Denver office but couldn't elaborate.
Dear is charged with murder and other counts after prosecutors say he killed three people and injured nine in November.
Neighbor Robert Adams said in a phone interview that he saw 15 to 20 law enforcement agents arrive in a dozen vehicles and search the Swannanoa property for several hours.
He said agents wearing face shields or masks along with gloves searched the trailer after using a battering ram on the door.
Justice Department: Improve Use Of Force Improvements
Federal officials are urging Fayetteville police to improve their use of force policies.
A series of recommendations by the U.S. Justice Department was released Wednesday afternoon at a news conference with First Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bruce, Fayetteville Mayor Nat Robertson and Police Chief Harold Medlock.
The Justice Department said Fayetteville's system does not provide accurate records on citizen complaints and officers' use of force. It recommends a more comprehensive system, including demographic information on complainants and the use of force.
The report also says the department should prohibit officers from firing warning shots because of the possibility that innocent people get hurt.
The report comes more than 18 months after Medlock requested an on-site review in an effort to determine how the police department can improve operations and community relations.
Executive Mansion Admission: Donation For Pets And Shelters
People can get in free to the North Carolina Executive Mansion this weekend as long as they bring something to help pets in shelters.
Gov. Pat McCrory and first lady Ann McCrory are inviting people to an open house Saturday. Admission is a donation for pets, such as chew toys, food and dog collars or leashes or a donation for the shelters, such as paper towels, bleach and laundry detergent.
A McCrory spokesman says shelters that receive the donations will be chosen after the event.