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., 12/04/2021
E.g., 12/04/2021

In this indecent liberties case, the defendant waived any right of appellate review with respect to his arguments challenging admission of his inculpatory statements (he had asserted a Miranda violation and that the statements were involuntary). The defendant has the burden of establishing that a motion to suppress is made both timely and in proper form. Here, the defendant failed to meet that burden and thus waved appellate review of these issues. The court continued, however, holding that the record was insufficient to consider the defendant’s related ineffective assistance of counsel claim, and dismissed that claim without prejudice to the defendant’s right to file a motion for appropriate relief in superior court.

In this child sexual assault case, the court reversed the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR) seeking a new trial for ineffective assistance of counsel related to opinion testimony by the State’s expert. The defendant was convicted of sexual offenses against Kim. On appeal the defendant argued that the trial court should have granted his MAR based on ineffective assistance of both trial and appellate counsel regarding expert opinion testimony that the victim had in fact been sexually abused.

(1) The court began by concluding that the testimony offered by the State’s expert that Kim had, in fact, been sexually abused was inadmissible. The court reiterated the rule that where there is no physical evidence of abuse, an expert may not opine that sexual abuse has in fact occurred. In this case the State offered no physical evidence that Kim had been sexually abused. On direct examination the State’s expert testified consistent with governing law. On cross-examination, however, the expert expressed the opinion that Kim “had been sexually abused.” And on redirect the State’s expert again opined that Kim had been sexually abused. In the absence of physical evidence of sexual abuse, the expert’s testimony was inadmissible.

(2) The court went on to hold, however, that because the defendant failed to raise the issue on direct appeal, his claim that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to move to strike the expert’s opinion that victim Kim had in fact been sexually abused was procedurally defaulted. The record from the direct appeal was sufficient for the court to determine in that proceeding that trial counsel provided ineffective assistance of counsel. Defense counsel failed to object to testimony that was “clearly inadmissible” and the court could not “fathom any trial strategy or tactic which would involve allowing such opinion testimony to remain unchallenged.” And in fact, the trial transcript reveals that allowing the testimony to remain unchallenged was not part of any trial strategy. Moreover trial counsel’s failure to object to the opinion testimony was prejudicial. Because the “cold record” on direct appeal was sufficient for the court to rule on the ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the MAR claim was procedurally barred under G.S. 15A-1419(a)(3).

(3) The court continued, however, by holding that the defendant was denied effective assistance of appellate counsel in his first appeal when appellate counsel failed to argue that it was error to allow the expert’s testimony that Kim had, in fact, been sexually abused. The court noted that the ineffective assistance of appellate counsel claim was not procedurally barred. And, applying the Strickland attorney error standard, the court held that appellate counsel’s failure to raise the issue on direct appeal constituted ineffective assistance of counsel. The court thus reversed and remanded for entry of an order granting the defendant’s MAR.

One judge on the panel concurred with the majority “that appellate counsel was ineffective”; concurred in result only with the majority’s conclusion that the claim regarding trial counsel’s ineffectiveness was procedurally barred; but, concluding that the defendant was not prejudiced by the expert’s testimony, dissented from the remainder of the opinion.

In this child sex offense case, because the record was insufficient to allow review of the defendant’s claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, the court dismissed the appeal without prejudice to the defendant’s right to pursue the claim in a motion for appropriate relief in the trial court.

The court declined to address the defendant’s claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his lawyer failed to object to and agreed to the admission of a hearsay statement and failed to request a jury instruction on the ultimate user exception to the Control Substances Act. The court noted that the record was insufficient to determine whether trial counsel was ineffective or whether there was a reasonable, strategic reason for counsel’s actions, and dismissed the claim without prejudice to the defendant’s right to assert it in a motion for appropriate relief.

Considering the merits of the defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct appeal from his conviction of felony assault, the court held that the defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel when trial counsel consented to a mistrial at the first trial. Analyzing the claim under the Strickland attorney error standard, the court held that the defendant failed to show prejudice because the trial court did not abuse its discretion in declaring a mistrial due to manifest necessity. Thus, counsel’s failure to object “was not of any consequence.” 

Finding the record in this child sexual assault case insufficient to rule on the defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the court denied the claim without prejudice to the defendant’s right to assert it in a MAR proceeding. The defendant argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his lawyer elicited evidence of guilt that the State had not introduced. Specifically, he argued that while the State only elicited testimony from the victim about one instance of sexual intercourse with the defendant, defense counsel asked the victim a leading question implying that she had sex with the defendant on two occasions.

The court dismissed the defendant’s claim that counsel’s trial strategy constituted ineffectiveness under Strickland. This claim was dismissed without prejudice to the defendant’s right to assert the claim in a Motion for Appropriate Relief.

The defendant’s claim that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to a videotape of the defendant’s interrogation was properly considered on appeal. Although the defendant asked the court to dismiss his claim without prejudice to raise it in a motion for appropriate relief, he failed to identify how the record on appeal was insufficient to resolve the claim. 

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