Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium


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., 07/21/2024
E.g., 07/21/2024

In a delivery of cocaine case the trial court abused its discretion by denying the defendant’s request for an entrapment instruction as a sanction under G.S. 15A-910(a) for failure to provide "specific information as to the nature and extent of the defense" as required by G.S. 15A-905(c)(1)(b). The trial court made no findings of fact to justify the sanction and the State did not show prejudice from the lack of detail in the notice filed eight months prior to trial. The court held:

[I]n considering the totality of the circumstances prior to imposing sanctions on a defendant, relevant factors for the trial court to consider include without limitation: (1) the defendant's explanation for the discovery violation including whether the discovery violation constituted willful misconduct on the part of the defendant or whether the defendant sought to gain a tactical advantage by committing the discovery violation, (2) the State's role, if any, in bringing about the violation, (3) the prejudice to the State resulting from the defendant's discovery violation, (4) the prejudice to the defendant resulting from the sanction, including whether the sanction could interfere with any fundamental rights of the defendant, and (5) the possibility of imposing a less severe sanction on the defendant.

Slip op. at pp. 29-30. The court continued, holding that assuming that the defendant’s notice constituted a discovery violation, the trial court abused its discretion by refusing to instruct on entrapment as a sanction.

(1) In this murder case, the trial court abused its discretion by excluding, as a discovery sanction, testimony by defense expert Masucci. The defendant offered Masucci after the trial court precluded the original defense expert, Ward, from testifying that incriminating computer files had been planted on the defendant’s computer. The State made no pretrial indication that it planned to challenge Ward’s testimony. At trial, the defendant called Ward to testify that based upon his analysis of the data recovered from the defendant's laptop, tampering had occurred with respect to the incriminating computer files. The State successfully moved to exclude this testimony on the basis that Ward was not an expert in computer forensic analysis. The defendant then quickly located Masucci, an expert in computer forensic analysis, to provide the testimony Ward was prevented from giving. The State then successfully moved to exclude Masucci as a sanction for violation of discovery rules. The only evidence directly linking the defendant to the murder was the computer files. Even if the defendant violated the discovery rules, the trial court abused its discretion with respect to the sanction imposed and violated the defendant’s constitutional right to present a defense. (2) The trial court erred by failing to conduct an in camera inspection of discovery sought by the defense regarding information related to FBI analysis of the computer files. The trial court found that the FBI information was used in counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations and that disclosure would be contrary to the public interest. The court held that the trial court’s failure to do an in camera review constituted a violation of due process. It instructed that on remand, the trial court “must determine with a reasonable degree of specificity how national security or some other legitimate interest would be compromised by discovery of particular data or materials, and memorialize its ruling in some form allowing for informed appellate review.”

The trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s request for a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter based on imperfect self-defense where, among other things, the State filed a motion requesting that the defendant provide voluntary discovery outlining the defenses he intended to assert at trial but the defendant failed to provide the State with the defenses or the requisite notice required to assert a theory of self-defense under G.S. 15A-905(c)(1).

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