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., 09/26/2021
E.g., 09/26/2021

The trial court erred by dismissing charges after finding that the State violated the discovery statutes by failing to obtain and preserve a pawn shop surveillance video of the alleged transaction at issue. On 7 August 2012, defense counsel notified that State that there was reason to believe another person had been at the pawn shop on the date of the alleged offense and inquired if the State had obtained a surveillance video from the pawn shop. On 18 February 2013, trial counsel made another inquiry about the video. The prosecutor then spoke with an investigator who went to the pawn shop and learned that the video had been destroyed six months ago. Before the trial court, the defendant successfully argued that the State was “aware of evidence that could be exculpatory and acted with negligence to allow it to be destroyed.” On appeal, the court rejected this argument, noting that there was no evidence that the video was ever in the State’s possession and under the discovery statutes, the State need only disclose matters in its possession; it need not conduct an independent investigation to locate evidence favorable to a defendant. 

G.S. 15A-903 requires production of already existing documents; it imposes no duty on the State to create or continue to develop additional documentation regarding an investigation. To the extent the trial court concluded that the State violated statutory discovery provisions because it failed to document certain conversations, this was error. 

The trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges and her motion in limine, both of which asserted that the State violated the discovery rules by failing to provide her with the victim’s pretrial statement to the prosecutor. The victim made a statement to the police at the time of the crime. In a later statement to the prosecutor, the victim recounted the same details regarding the crime but said that he did not remember speaking to the police at the crime scene. The victim’s account of the incident, including his identification of the defendant as the perpetrator, remained consistent. Even though the victim told the prosecutor that he did not remember making a statement to the police at the scene, this was not significantly new or different information triggering a duty on the part of the State to disclose the statement.

State v. Flint, 199 N.C. App. 709 (Sept. 15, 2009)

The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendant’s motion to continue alleging that the defendant did not receive discovery at a reasonable time prior to trial where the defendant never made a motion for discovery and there was no written discovery agreement and thus the State was not required to provide discovery pursuant to G.S. 15A-903(a)(1). The trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing a witness named Karen Holman to testify when her name allegedly was listed on the State’s witness list as Karen Holbrook where the defendant never made a motion for discovery and there was no written discovery agreement, even if such a motion had been made, the trial judge had discretion under the statute to permit any undisclosed witness to testify, and the witness’s testimony served only to authenticate a videotape. 

A witness testified at trial that the defendant made the following statement about the victim during the robbery: “I hope this spic is dead.” The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence should have been excluded because of a discovery violation. The State provided information prior to trial that the witness had stated that “they hated Mexicans” and there was no unfair surprise.

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