Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

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This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.

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E.g., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021

By failing to object at trial, the defendant waived assertion of any error regarding shackling on appeal. The defendant argued that the trial court violated G.S. 15A-1031 by allowing him to appear before the jury in leg shackles and erred by failing to issue a limiting instruction. The court found the issue waived, noting that “other structural errors similar to shackling are not preserved without objection at trial.” However it continued:

Nevertheless, trial judges should be aware that a decision by a sheriff to shackle a problematic criminal defendant in a jail setting or in transferring a defendant from the jail to a courtroom, is not, without a trial court order supported by adequate findings of fact, sufficient to keep a defendant shackled during trial. Failure to enter such an order can, under the proper circumstances, result in a failure of due process

In a first-degree murder case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion or violate defendant’s constitutional rights by ordering the defendant to be physically restrained during trial after the defendant attempted to escape mid-trial, causing a lockdown of the courthouse.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by requiring the defendant to wear restraints at trial. The defendant, who was charged with murder and other crimes, objected to having to wear a knee brace at trial. The brace was not visible to the jury and made no noise. At a hearing on the issue, a deputy testified that it was “standard operating procedure” to put a murder defendant “in some sort of restraint” whenever he or she was out of the sheriff’s custody. Additionally, the trial court considered the defendant’s past convictions and his five failures to appear, which it found showed “some failure to comply with the [c]ourt orders[.]” The trial court also considered a pending assault charge that arose while the defendant was in custody.

The trial court did not err by requiring the defendant to be restrained during trial.

State v. Lee, 218 N.C. App. 42 (Jan. 17, 2012)

Although the trial court abused its discretion by requiring the defendant to remain shackled during his trial, the error was harmless in light of the trial court’s curative instruction and the overwhelming evidence of guilt. The court “strongly caution[ed] trial courts to adhere to the proper procedures regarding shackling of a defendant” [Author’s note: For the section of the superior court judge’s benchbook outlining the law on this issue here.].

(1) The trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to remove the defendant’s handcuff restraints during trial. The defendant was an incarcerated prisoner charged with possession of drugs at a penal institution. The trial court properly considered the defendant’s past record and reasoned that incarceration for second-degree murder and kidnapping raised safety concerns. (2) Although the trial court erred by failing to give the limiting instruction required by G.S. 15A-1031 regarding the defendant’s restraints, the error was not prejudicial.

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