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., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021

In a case involving two defendants, no plain error occurred where the trial court’s instructions referred to the defendant and his accomplice collectively as “defendants.” The court noted that when two or more defendants are tried jointly for the same offense, a charge that is susceptible to the construction that the jury should convict all if it finds one guilty is reversible error. However, it noted, it is not necessary to give wholly separate instructions as to each defendant when the charges and the evidence as to each defendant are identical, provided that the trial court either gives a separate final mandate as to each defendant or otherwise clearly instructs the jury that the guilt or innocence of one defendant is not dependent upon the guilt or innocence of a codefendant. Noting that the trial court failed to give a separate mandate as to each defendant or a separate instruction clarifying that the guilt or innocence of one defendant is not dependent upon the guilt or innocence of a codefendant, the court held that even if error occurred, it did not rise to the level of plain error.

In a case in which two defendants were convicted of attempted murder and felonious assault, the trial judge committed plain error by giving jury instructions that impermissibly grouped the defendants together in presenting the charges and issues to the jury. In its instructions, the trial court repeatedly referred to the defendants collectively (e.g.,: “For you to find the defendants guilty of this offense . . . .”; the State must prove “that [when] each of the defendant had this intent[,] they performed an act that was calculated and designed to accomplish the crime”).

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