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., 11/27/2021
E.g., 11/27/2021

The defendant’s first trial on charges of DWI, driving while license revoked, and driving without a valid registration or properly displayed license plate ended in a hung jury and mistrial. A retrial was scheduled for approximately two months later. One week before the retrial, defense counsel made a motion for production of the transcript of the prior trial for the purpose of impeaching and cross-examining the state’s witnesses, and moved for a continuance to allow time to receive the transcript. The trial court denied the defendant’s motions, and the retrial was held. Over the state’s objections, the defense called the defendant’s prior trial counsel to testify at the retrial and impeach the state’s witnesses’ testimony. The jury convicted the defendant of all charges and he appealed, arguing that the trial court committed reversible error by denying his motions for a transcript and continuance.

 The appellate court characterized the defendant’s arguments as “a puffer fish, attempting to ‘blow up’ Defendant’s lack of a transcript” into a constitutional error attributable to the state or the court, when it was “more accurately described as a desiccated sardine, consciously canned by his trial counsel.” Noting that any error or prejudice was invited by defense counsel’s delay in filing the motion for a transcript, as well as the failure to pursue other options such as issuing a subpoena to have the court reporter read back testimony at the retrial, the appellate court held that the defendant might have a basis to allege ineffective assistance of counsel, but he failed to demonstrate that the trial court committed prejudicial error by denying the pretrial motions.

Judge Murphy dissented and would have held that the trial court erred by denying defendant’s motions without making the necessary findings on whether the transcript was necessary to the preparation of an effective defense or there were adequate alternatives available.

The trial court’s ex parte orders compelling the production of the defendant’s personnel files and educational records were void ab initio. While employed as a police officer the defendant was involved in a vehicle pursuit that resulted in the death of the pursued driver. Prior to charging the defendant with a crime, the State obtained two separate ex parte orders compelling the production of the defendant’s personnel records from four North Carolina police departments where he had been employed as well as his educational records related to a community college BLET class. After the defendant was indicted for involuntary manslaughter, he unsuccessfully moved to set aside the ex parte orders. On appeal, the court concluded that the orders were void ab initio. Citing In re Superior Court Order, 315 N.C. 378 (1986), and In re Brooks, 143 N.C. App. 601 (2001), both dealing with ex parte orders for records, the court concluded:

The State did not present affidavits or other comparable evidence in support of their motions for the release of [the defendant’s] personnel files and educational records sufficiently demonstrating their need for the documents being sought. Nor was a special proceeding, a civil action, or a criminal action ever initiated in connection with the ex parte motions and orders. For these reasons, the State never took the steps necessary to invoke the superior court’s jurisdiction.

In this misdemeanor DWI case the court held that the defendant had no statutory right to pretrial discovery and rejected the defendant’s argument that G.S. 15A-901 violated due process. The court noted, however, that the defendant did have discovery rights under Brady.

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