• 43°

N.C. voters OK amendment to trial law

Staff and wire reports

Voters have approved a constitutional amendment that gives criminal defendants in North Carolina another option other than a jury trial.

Votes tabulated by The Associated Press showed 53 percent of voters supported the amendment, which allows people charged with a felony to decide if they want a judge or a jury to hear their case.

In Rowan County, 20,787 voted in favor of the amendment and 14,956 against, a margin of 58.2 percent to 41.8 percent.

Under current state law, a criminal defendant in a felony case must have a jury trial. They cannot waive or relinquish that right. But under the amendment, defendants can waive their right to a jury trial. Such a waiver would require the consent of the trial judge and would not be allowed in a death penalty case.

The amendment, sponsored by former state Sen. Pete Brunstetter, R-Forsyth, is seen as a way to increase efficiency in state courtrooms.

Before going to the state’s voters, the amendment passed the state House, 104-1, and the Senate, 44-0.

The amendment puts North Carolina in line with 49 other states and the federal criminal justice system.

A study by the University of North Carolina’s School of Government said one benefit of the amendment is that it could save time and money if a significant number of defendants picked a judge rather than a jury to decide their case.

That’s because so-called bench trials tend to be shorter and less expensive than jury trials.

But the report also examined arguments against the proposal, including the fear that defendants could be pressured by busy prosecutors or even judges to waive their right to a jury trial.

Looking at the experience in other jurisdictions that allow defendants to waive a jury trial, researchers found that only a small number — between 5 percent and 30 percent of felony defendants — chose a judge over a jury trial.

If North Carolina were to have a similar experience, any cost savings or efficiency gains from the amendment would be modest.

And the report said that judges are more likely than juries to acquit defendants.

Comments

Local

City officials differ on how, what information should be released regarding viral K-9 officer video

High School

High school basketball: Carson girls are 3A champions

Lifestyle

High school, college sweethearts marry nearly 50 years later

Local

With jury trials set to resume, impact of COVID-19 on process looms

Legion baseball

Book explores life of Pfeiffer baseball coach Joe Ferebee

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education to receive update on competency-based education

Business

Biz Roundup: Kannapolis expects to see economic, housing growth continue in 2021

Business

A fixture of downtown Salisbury’s shopping scene, Caniche celebrates 15th anniversary this month

Local

Slate of new officers during local GOP convention; Rev. Jenkins becomes new chair

Landis

Landis officials narrow search for new manager to five candidates; expect decision within a month

Lifestyle

Together at last: High school, college sweethearts marry nearly 50 years later

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools sorts out transportation logistics in preparation for full-time return to classes

High School

Photo gallery: Carson goes undefeated, wins 3A state championship

Nation/World

Europe staggers as infectious variants power virus surge

Nation/World

Biden, Democrats prevail as Senate OKs $1.9 trillion virus relief bill

Nation/World

Senate Democrats strike deal on jobless aid, move relief bill closer to approval

News

Duke Life Flight pilot may have shut down wrong engine in fatal crash

News

Two NC counties get to participate in satellite internet pilot for students

Local

PETA protesters gather in front of police department

Coronavirus

UPDATED: Eight new COVID-19 deaths, 203 positives reported in county this week

Crime

Sheriff’s office: Two charged after suitcase of marijuana found in Jeep

Crime

Thomasville officer hospitalized after chase that started in Rowan County

Local

Board of elections discusses upgrading voting machines, making precinct changes

News

Lawmakers finalize how state will spend COVID-19 funds