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 photo of downtown Asheville

City of Asheville unsuccessfully tries to sanction journalists’ lawyer for records requests

By: - June 7, 2023

The City of Asheville had warned attorney Ben Scales not to keep pushing his requests to force dozens of city employees to testify at a criminal trial. Officials had argued the attorney’s subpoenas were “patently improper,” that they subjected staff to “undue burden and expense,” and “deviated from applicable legal standards.” They’d told him that […]

a prisoner grips the bars on their cell

No lifer-parole bill this session, but some non-lifer prisoners support it

By: - June 7, 2023

Uri Small isn’t serving a life sentence, but he might as well be. He’s been in prison for 25 years, since he was 19 years old. He doesn’t expect to get out until he is 67. When he dies, he likely will have spent more of his life in prison than free. And yet, as […]

A sign for Asheville's Aston Park

Lawyer asks court to delay, dismiss Asheville journalists’ case as trial nears

By: - June 2, 2023

An attorney for two journalists convicted of trespassing while reporting in a public park after-hours has asked a Superior Court judge to dismiss the case, or at least delay their looming appeal trial, based on the claim that the City of Asheville and Buncombe County District Attorney’s Office haven’t complied with his subpoenas or discovery […]

a map of North Carolina that highlights counties which are legal deserts

Nearly half of North Carolina’s counties are “legal deserts.” State budget proposals could help with that.

By: - June 1, 2023

Almost half of North Carolina’s counties are “legal deserts,” meaning there is less than one lawyer for every 1,000 residents, the executive director of the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS) told members of state a commission Thursday morning. Almost two-thirds of North Carolina’s attorneys are in Wake, Mecklenburg, Guilford, Durham and Forsyth […]

photos of House Judiciary 1 Committee members

Juvenile justice bill advances after debate on children’s rights vs. public safety

By: - June 1, 2023

Over the concerns of advocates worried about the rights and mental health of young people charged with serious crimes, members of a House Judiciary Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that makes changes to North Carolina’s juvenile justice system. House Bill 834 would speed up the process of transferring minors charged with certain serious felonies to […]

an aging prisoner in his cell

Changing prison medical release law could make 1,000+ people eligible

By: - May 30, 2023

Senate Republican leaders included a provision deep within their budget that would broaden North Carolina’s medical release law that offers sick, elderly and dying incarcerated people a path out of prison so they can spend the end of their lives outside the confines of a cell. Data shared with NC Newsline by Ben Finholt, director […]

Senate Budget requires new reports from prison system

By: - May 26, 2023

The Senate budget would require the Department of Adult Correction to submit reports to the legislature on nurse staffing levels at state prisons and data on crimes committed by prison employees while they’re on the job. The provisions are located deep in the Senate budget, beginning on page 306. For the next two years the […]

The NC Legislative Building

Legislators advance bills giving more powers to prosecutors

By: - May 25, 2023

Members of the Senate Rules Committee advanced two bills Thursday that would allow district attorneys to file a petition to modify a person’s probation and permit prosecutors to appoint at least one special investigator. House Bill 116 would allow district attorneys to recuse themselves from cases for “good cause” and permit each prosecutorial district across […]

an aging prisoner in his cell

Senate budget would expand medical release for aging, sick prisoners

By: - May 25, 2023

State senators have proposed expanding the eligibility criteria for the medical release of people in North Carolina prisons, potentially giving thousands of sick and aging people in state custody an opportunity to go home before they die. The law change, which can be found on page 310 of the Senate budget, comes after an NC […]

Justice Michael Morgan not running for re-election to NC Supreme Court

By: - May 18, 2023

Associate Justice Michael Morgan announced on Twitter Thursday morning that he will not run for re-election to retain his seat on the state Supreme Court. “With the incredibly good fortune to be the only person ever in NC to serve in 4 different judgeships over my 34 years of judicial service, I shall not seek […]

The House budgeted for Voter ID. The Senate did not.

By: - May 17, 2023

In its budget proposal unveiled last month, North Carolina’s House of Representatives budgeted $3.5 million for the State Board of Elections to implement voter ID requirements — before the state Supreme Court even ruled on whether it was constitutional. The Senate released its budget proposal this week. Unlike their House colleagues, however, it did not […]

images of the police raid on Aston Park

City, prosecutors resist records demand of lawyer for Asheville journalists

By: - May 17, 2023

After two Asheville journalists were convicted of trespassing last month, their lawyer, Ben Scales, said he would get a bevy of documents and records before his clients appealed to Buncombe County Superior Court.  On May 1, Scales attempted to make good on that promise, subpoenaing a long list of items from the Asheville Police Department. […]