End Racial Profiling in Durham Now

For years I have represented young black male and Hispanic drivers who describe being stopped for no good reason, and searched without result. One of my clients was TASERed for refusing to extinguish his cigarette after he was stopped for what a judge later determined was no legitimate reason.  (http://www.unc.edu/~fbaum/papers/Trial_Briefs_Ian_Mance_2012.pdf ) These people feel like victims of a bully that they cannot stand up to. I have long fought racial profiling as a disease in our beloved community. People should not be treated like criminals, targeted for investigation, because of the color of their skin. It is humiliating.

Racial profiling has … read more »

Lessons of Violence from a Criminal Defense Lawyer

I have the opportunity to talk with Mayor Bill Bell about his idea to reduce gun violence by setting bonds in gun cases to $300,000. Last week we had two homicides in three days. Mayor Bell wants to send a clear message to perpetrators of violence that we are serious about ending violence. I applaud Mayor Bell for keeping this issue on the forefront of our minds; but, I disagree with his approach. This opportunity to talk about violence in Durham has required me to try to articulate some of the lessons I have learned about violence in Durham.

The Lessons … read more »

What do you really do? – A Summary of my Criminal and Civil Rights Practice

I have received many requests lately for a wide variety of assistance, and I wanted to clarify what kind of work I do.

I make a living working as an attorney. Most of my practice focuses on criminal defense. I practice trial courts and appeals court at both the state and federal level. I also handle post-conviction cases, which involve trying to overturn convictions after the appeal period is over based upon new evidence.

I take a small number of civil rights cases. I screen these cases very carefully, and only take a select few. These cases are usually claims for excessive … read more »

Criminal Law |  April 12, 2012 | Comments

“Stand-Your-Ground” makes us less safe

The stand-your-ground laws have altered the traditional rule of self-defense in a way that makes us all less safe. Under traditional self-defense rules a person has a duty to retreat if reasonably possible to avoid killing. The Stand your ground doctrine alters that duty under certain circumstances, and allows the person the choice to kill or retreat when they could reasonably do either. For example, if you believed someone was attacking you while you were in your car, and you could drive away – the traditional duty to retreat requires you to drive away and call the police. The stand … read more »

Increasing Bonds? The Solution to Gun Violence? Really?

I’ve read recently that Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Durham County Commissioners Chairman Michael Page both support increasing bonds for people charged with gun violence as a way to reduce violence in Durham. These recurring suggestions that “getting tough on crime” and increasing punishment will deter crime are out of touch with the causes of crime in our community. Political leaders serious about reducing crime should be talking about living wage jobs programs, counseling, education, training, and intensive mentorship programs. Our local “criminals” are mostly kids who have been abandoned by their families and by our community. They have been … read more »

A Review of “Living Without Enemies: Being Present in the Midst of Violence”

By Samuel Wells and Marcia Owen

Reviewed by Scott Holmes

In this beautiful little book, my friend Marcia Owen shares her way of making peace in our community. Marcia is the executive director of the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham. (http://www.nonviolentdurham.org/) She has helped organize “Faith Teams” in local faith communities to support people returning to our community from prison. She has helped form one such Faith Team in our Meeting.  She also organizes vigils in the community to commemorate, honor, and hold the suffering of families who have lost loved ones to gun violence. This is a unique book about … read more »

The Ethics of Mudslinging in Court – What is Next for Durham Courts?

I have received a lot of support for my last blog asking Tracey Cline to resign, and appreciate that support. Since then,  I have been weighing the serious allegations of ethical misconduct that have been lodged against Ms. Cline. In this blog I take a closer look at the ethical ramifications of making false statements in filings, failing to notify opposing parties of motions, and making false statements against a judge which impugn the integrity or qualifications of that judge. And I look at what may be next for our Courts.

False Filings and Going Behind Someone’s Back

Ms. Cline has been … read more »

“Please make it Stop” – The Judicial Meltdown in Durham

“Please make it stop.” These were the words going through my head as I heard District Attorney Tracey Cline explaining to Judge Carl Fox why she had filed a motion to have Judge Hudson removed from criminal cases in Durham. She is not making sense. She is incoherent, unprepared, and embarrassing herself. She tried to argue cases she had not read, and the cameras were rolling. I have known Ms. Cline for years, and have tried cases with her since 1998. I have known her as a prosecutor who cares deeply for the victims of crime and who works hard … read more »

Guilty of Neglect

I was sitting in the corner of the cramped court room at the Durham County Jail when they rolled an inmate wearing orange into the courtroom in a wheel chair. I was waiting my turn to ask for a bond reduction for a client, and had about a lot other things waiting for me at the office.  The Assistant District Attorney read the guy’s name and his charges: “On or about October 22, 2010, you unlawfully and willfully did solicit passers-by on Fayetteville Road for money.” I was appalled. So was the judge. A homeless guy in a wheel chair … read more »

The Possibilities of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

When a mother loses her son, when he is shot and killed, it is natural to assume there is nothing but anger, hatred, and revenge in her heart. When a sister loses her dear brother, the source of joy and humor in her life, it is natural to assume she feels only ill will toward the person who took her brother from her. In my work defending people charged with murder, I have witnessed miraculous moments of forgiveness and reconciliation. I have received expressions of love and grace from these most unexpected messengers of hope.

 When I litigate murder cases, I … read more »