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., 06/29/2024
E.g., 06/29/2024

In this Gaston County first-degree murder case, the trial court (1) did not err in instructing the jury that there was sufficient evidence to infer that the defendant intentionally injured the victim; (2) erred by allowing the State to examine the defendant about privileged communications he had with defense counsel; (3) and did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to compel the State to disclose the theory on which it sought to convict him of first-degree murder.

(1) The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court’s instruction to the jury that “[w]hen an adult has exclusive custody of a child for a period of time during which that child suffers injuries that are neither self-inflicted nor accidental, there is sufficient evidence to create an inference that the adult intentionally inflicted those injuries” impermissibly “created a ‘mandatory presumption’” that the defendant intentionally injured the victim. Viewing the challenged language “in light of the entire charge” and in the greater context of the law regarding intent and direct and circumstantial evidence, the Court of Appeals found no error in the instruction, explaining in part that the phrase “sufficient to create an inference” cannot reasonably be interpreted as meaning that the basic facts, if proven, “necessarily create an inference” of intent.

(2) The trial court erred by permitting the State to question the defendant on cross-examination about the substance of communications between him and defense counsel as those communications were subject to attorney-client privilege. Over an objection and in an effort to impeach the defendant’s credibility, the State was permitted to question the defendant about whether he discussed his law enforcement interrogation with his attorney. The Court of Appeals determined that the error was not prejudicial in light of the fact that the defendant’s credibility was already at issue at the time of the objectionable cross-examination and the defendant already had testified to being untruthful with police in the past.

(3) Given the well-stablished principle that “when first-degree murder is charged, the State is not required to elect between theories of prosecution prior to trial,” the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by denying his pretrial motion to compel the State to disclose the theory upon which it sought his conviction.

(1) In this case in which the defendant was convicted of several felonies, including attempted murder, assault with intent to kill, burglary, and numerous attempted sex offenses, the trial court did not err in responding to the deliberating jury’s request that it explain the “legal definition of intent.” The State proposed that the court read to the jury the pattern instruction on intent, N.C.P.I. -Crim. 120. 10. This instruction includes a footnote setting out additional, optional instructions related to specific intent and general intent. The defendant was charged with multiple offenses, including both specific intent and general intent crimes. The defendant asked the trial court to read a special instruction pertaining only to specific intent and referencing only the charged crimes that required specific intent, omitting the charged general intent crimes. The State objected to the defendant’s proposed instruction on grounds that it was too specific and did not answer the question that the jury asked. The trial court gave State’s instruction, adding an additional sentence. The trial court’ decision to give the State’s instruction was well within its broad discretion. (2) The defendant failed to preserve for review language in the trial court’s instruction on intent that deviated from the pattern instruction. Specifically, the defendant failed to object to the additional sentence when proposed by the trial court. The court noted that the defendant failed to argue plain error on appeal.

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