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., 12/10/2023
E.g., 12/10/2023
State v. Maness, 363 N.C. 261 (June 18, 2009)

Trial court did not err in sustaining the prosecutor’s objection to an improper stake-out question by the defense. Defense counsel wanted to ask the juror in this capital case whether the juror could, if convinced that life imprisonment was the appropriate penalty, return such a verdict even if the other jurors were of a different opinion.

In this Mecklenburg County case, defendant appealed his convictions for assault with a deadly weapon and discharging a weapon into a building and vehicle in operation, arguing error by (1) allowing the prosecutor to tell potential jurors that probation was within the potential sentencing range and (2) substituting an alternative juror after deliberations began, and (3) ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals found no prejudicial error. 

In December of 2019, defendant was involved in an altercation at a Cook Out in Charlotte, eventually firing several shots that hit a car and the exterior wall of the Cook Out. The matter came for trial in March of 2022. On the second day of deliberations, one of the jurors was ill and did not report for jury duty. The trial court substituted an alternate juror and directed the jury to restart deliberations under G.S. 15A-1215(a). Defendant was subsequently convicted and appealed. 

Taking up (1), the Court of Appeals explained that it reviewed a trial court’s management of jury selection for abuse of discretion. Here, the State’s choice to mention probation during voir dire was “questionable” as “a probationary sentence under these facts requires the trial judge to find extraordinary mitigation,” but the statement was “technically accurate” as a statement of law. Slip Op. at 5. The court concluded there was no abuse of discretion in these circumstances as it was not a totally unsupported possibility. Turning to (2), the court explained that defendant argued that “more than twelve persons” were involved in the jury verdict, but defendant failed to preserve the issue for review and the court dismissed it.  

Reaching (3), the court explained that defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel argument contained two points, (a) that defense counsel should have objected to the trial court’s jury instructions on self-defense, and (b) that counsel should have requested a jury poll. Looking at (3)(a), defendant argued that the instruction did not require the jury to consider whether other patrons at the Cook Out had guns. The court explained that the instruction closely tracked the applicable language of the statute and directed the jury to consider whether “defendant reasonably believed that deadly force was necessary,” which would encompass the consideration of whether other people at the scene had guns. Id. at 9. The court could not conclude that a different instruction specifically mentioning a gun would have led to a different result, meaning the argument could not support the ineffective assistance claim. The court likewise dispensed with (3)(b), explaining that the trial court was not required to poll the jury unless requested, but “both the jury foreman and the other jurors, as a group, affirmed—in open court—that their verdicts were unanimous.” Id. at 10. Because there was no evidence of coercion or inducements to the jury, there was no reasonable probability a jury poll would have created a different result for defendant. 

In an appeal from a conviction obtained in the Eve Carson murder case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by overruling the defendant’s objections to the State’s questions during jury selection. The defendant objected to questions about whether jurors could consider testimony by witnesses who had criminal records, had received immunity deals for their testimony, and/or were uncharged participants in some of the criminal activities described at trial. The defendant also objected to questions about the jurors’ understanding of and feelings about the substantive law on felony murder.

In a case in which the defendant was charged with various crimes related to his shooting of his pregnant wife, the trial court did not err by limiting the defendant’s voir dire of prospective jurors. The charges against the defendant included first-degree murder of his child, who was born alive after the defendant’s attack on her mother but died one month later. Defense counsel attempted to ask prospective jurors about their views on abortion and when life begins, and whether they held such strong views on those subjects that they would be unable to apply the law. The trial court sustained the State’s objection to this questioning. These questions apparently confused prospective jurors as several inquired about the relevancy of their opinions on abortion. The trial court did not abuse its discretion by sustaining the State’s objection to questioning that was confusing and irrelevant.

The trial court did not improperly limit the defendant’s voir dire questioning with respect to assessing the credibility of witnesses and the jurors’ ability to follow the law on reasonable doubt. Because the trial judge properly sustained the State’s objections to the defendant’s questions, no abuse of discretion occurred. Even if any error occurred, the defendant suffered no prejudice.

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