Kelan Lyons

Kelan Lyons

Investigative Reporter Kelan Lyons writes about criminal and civil justice, including high-profile litigation, prison and jail conditions, housing, and the challenges people face when they leave prison.

A sign for Asheville's Aston Park

Asheville reporters scheduled for trial this week as a related one about protestors begins

By: - April 19, 2023

Two reporters for the progressive online news source The Asheville Blade are scheduled to go on trial Wednesday after being arrested for covering a police sweep of Aston Park. Matilda Bliss and Veronica Coit are each facing misdemeanor trespassing charges, a low-level crime that can carry up to 20 days in jail and a $200 fine. […]

Bill would abolish the death penalty

By: - April 17, 2023

Four House Democrats have filed a bill that would repeal North Carolina’s death penalty and resentence the 137 people on death row to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The proposal comes as advocates continue to urge Gov. Roy Cooper to commute all pending death sentences and clear the state’s death row before he […]

A defaced Confederate monument

“No right way to tear down oppressive systems”: the risks of toppling Confederate monuments

By: - April 17, 2023

[Note: This report has been updated to include a statement from Gov. Roy Cooper’s office.] Jeremy Collins didn’t know where he was going to get one, but he needed a crane. It was June 2020, a month after George Floyd’s murder. Collins’s boss, Gov. Roy Cooper, had just ordered the removal of three Confederate monuments […]

NC CRED: The harms inflicted by Confederate monuments — and why they should be toppled

By: - April 14, 2023

Every October, Ronda Taylor-Bullock’s hometown would come alive on Goldston’s Old Fashion Day. Vendors would line the streets of the small rural community, selling wares and performing music. But there was one booth that wasn’t for her, a Black child. It made her feel unsafe, even though no adults had explicitly told her to stay away. […]

Efforts continue to get Cooper to commute death sentences before he leaves office

By: - April 12, 2023

Religious leaders will call on Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday to commute the punishments of 137 people in state prisons sentenced to death. Such an action would clear North Carolina’s Death Row. Organizers will deliver a letter to the governor signed by almost 300 faith leaders — representing every major faith tradition including Islam, Judaism, […]

State launches pilot to restore people’s capacity so they can have their day in court

By: - April 11, 2023

Last week the North Carolina Department of Health and Human services announced a pilot program to restore the capacity of people with mental health conditions whom the courts determined were incapable to proceed to trial. Per state law, a person lacks the capacity to proceed in a criminal case if they are unable to understand […]

Chief Justice Paul Newby

In two rulings, NC Supreme Court finds no racial discrimination in jury selection

By: - April 10, 2023

The North Carolina Supreme Court last week issued two rulings involving alleged racial discrimination in jury selection. The opinions come after a Democratic-majority state Supreme Court issued landmark rulings on striking Black people from serving on a jury because of their race, known as a Batson violation. In 2020 the justices gave lower courts guidance […]

Bobby Norfleet wasn’t the only elderly imprisoned person in NC eligible for parole

By: - April 7, 2023

Earlier this week NC Newsline published an in-depth story about Bobby Norfleet, a 67-year-old man who was sentenced to life in prison in 1979. The story is about the myriad ways the justice system failed Norfleet, a poor and disabled Black man who grew up in a big, loving family in small Eastern North Carolina […]

A miscarriage of justice, a life in prison

By: - April 5, 2023

This story mentions sexual assault. It was April 2022, and come summer 66-year-old Bobby Norfleet would begin another year behind bars. He bore the marks of 44 years in North Carolina prisons. He had a lump in his left leg. He didn’t have any teeth. His dentures had broken, so talking was difficult.  Bobby’s younger […]

NC Supreme Court hasn’t ruled on Voter ID yet. House Republicans budgeted for it anyway.

By: - April 3, 2023

The North Carolina Supreme Court hasn’t yet ruled on whether a voter ID law was intended to discriminate against prospective voters of color, but that didn’t stop House Republicans from funding it. Legislators released a budget proposal last week that would give $3.5 million to the State Board of Elections to implement voter ID requirements. The board also […]

Photo of two men in orange jumpsuits behind prison bars

NC House budget expands prisoners’ access to college education

By: - April 3, 2023

The House budget bill released by Republican leaders last week includes a $4 million influx of cash to broaden incarcerated people’s opportunities to earn associate’s and bachelor’s degrees while they are imprisoned. The recurring funding would bump the net appropriation for prisoner education to $13.9 million for each of the next two years. That’s a […]

New public defender offices planned in the House budget, but no intent to expand public defense statewide

By: - March 30, 2023

The House budget unveiled by Republican leaders Wednesday night would provide funding to establish new public defender offices serving eight counties across North Carolina, an infusion of  funds to ensure poor people charged with crimes are adequately represented in court. But despite that there are such offices in less than half of the state’s 100 […]