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.

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 […]

Report: Some incarcerated people don’t trust NC’s prison grievance system

By: - March 29, 2023

Fear of punishment, concerns that prison staff thwart attempts to submit grievances cited A new report on North Carolina’s prison grievance procedure found that some incarcerated people do not think the policy resolves their complaints and fear they will be punished for raising an objection about their confinement.

Upcoming symposium to focus on the continual harm inflicted by Confederate monuments

By: - March 29, 2023

The North Carolina Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the Criminal Justice System will host a symposium next month focusing on the harms posed by confederate monuments. The all-day event will be held at Shaw University on April 13 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Click here to register. “Confederate monuments are not simply […]

Bill would fund two jail inspectors to examine county jails across North Carolina

By: - March 27, 2023

A bill before the legislature would pay for two full-time jail inspectors to examine county detention facilities across the state. House Bill 380 would send $211,502 in recurring funds to the Department of Health and Human Services so the state could hire two new jail inspectors. The measure, sponsored by Rep. Carla Cunningham (D-Mecklenburg), references the […]

Lawmakers mull letting cities, counties post public notices online, rather than in newspapers

By: - March 23, 2023

The oft-debated subject pits the decline of local newspapers against the public’s access to information. The fourth generation of his family to publish a newspaper, Lockwood Phillips has a reporter's sensibility for offhandedly recalling moments when journalism served its local community.