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States brief ~ NC lawmakers urge General Assembly to pass gang prevention law

[JURIST] Leading Wednesday's states brief, North Carolina lawmakers and law enforcement officers today urged the state's General Assembly to pass legislation [PDF text] unveiled seven months ago to combat gang member violence in the state. The bill would create additional felonies and stiffer penalties for gang members, and seek $20 million for gang prevention initiatives and $150,000 for a statewide database of criminal gang members. On Monday, federal immigration agents said that out of 582 people arrested in a recent nationwide round-up of suspected gang members living illegally in the US, North Carolina had the highest number at 77. Read the House Select Committee on Street Gang Prevention's report to the General Assembly here. AP has more.

In other state legal news ...

  • The state of Florida has released Luis Diaz, after serving 26 years for a series of rapes, because new DNA evidence excluded him as as the rapist in two of the rapes and case doubt on his responsibility for any of the crimes. Miami-Dade County's [official website] chief prosecutor requested the five rape convictions be thrown out, writing in the dismissal request, "It is impossible to ignore the difficulties inherent in retrying five very old cases even under the best of circumstances. Police investigators retire, memories fade, and victims move on with their lives." Diaz was convicted in 1980 of seven sexual assaults, but two of those convictions were thrown out in 1993 after two witnesses recanted their identification of him. The Innocence Project [Innocence Project case profile] also requested the convictions be thrown out, and executive director Barry Scheck said, "There are reforms police and prosecutors are using all across the country that reduce error, protect the innocent, and help apprehend the guilty." AP has more.

  • Delaware has agreed to pay over $1.4 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice [DOJ press release] alleging that a written examination once given to state trooper applicants discriminated against blacks. Under the consent decree, Delaware must pay more than $1.4 million to qualified blacks who applied for entry-level trooper positions between 1992 and 1998, but were denied employment as a result of their performance on the written examination. The federal government filed suit in 2001 alleging that the State Police [official website] "Alert" test discriminated against black trooper applicants. Department of Justice [official website] spokesman Eric Holland said that "While the racial discrimination was not intentional by the state, there was still a disparate impact on the basis of race." The consent decree must still be approved by the federal court. AP has more.

  • A New Jersey court of appeals has ruled [PDF text] that a municipality may seize land from a private developer to preserve the land as open space. The decision found Mt. Laurel Township acted properly when it seized 16-acres of land from a developer, saying it wanted to preserve the land. The developer had already received approval for his project to develop the land, and his attorney said the decision will be appealed to the state Supreme Court. AP has more.

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