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
State v. Edgerton, 368 N.C. 32 (Apr. 10, 2015)

In a case where the defendant was found guilty of violation of a DVPO with a deadly weapon, the court per curiam reversed and remanded for the reasons stated in the dissenting opinion below. In the decision below, State v. Edgerton, 234 N.C. App. 412 (2014), the court held, over a dissent, that the trial court committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense, misdemeanor violation of a DVPO, where the court had determined that the weapon at issue was not a deadly weapon per se. The dissenting judge did not agree with the majority that any error rose to the level of plain error.

The defendant met his former girlfriend and new boyfriend, the victim in the case, at a bar. The defendant asked the victim to step outside to talk. During the exchange, the victim told the defendant to hit him. (According to the concurrence, the victim said, “If you want to hit me, hit me, but this is not the way we need to solve this issue.”). The defendant hit the victim and broke his jaw in two places, requiring surgery to repair the damage. (1) The defendant argued that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on consent concerning AISBI. The majority stated that consent is not a defense to assault in North Carolina and held that the trial court did not err in refusing to instruct on consent for AISBI. The concurring judge found it unnecessary to decide whether consent is an element of or defense to assault, finding that the trial judge did not err in refusing to instruct on consent because the evidence did not show the victim consented to an assault inflicting serious bodily injury and arguably did not consent to an assault all.


(2) At sentencing, the State advised the trial judge that it had failed to disclose the fee paid to an expert to testify about the victim’s injuries. The trial judge found the failure to disclose was an “honest mistake.” The Court stated that it was not clear whether the trial judge found that a discovery violation had occurred, but assuming a violation occurred, the defendant was not prejudiced.

In this assault inflicting serious bodily injury case, no plain error occurred with respect to the trial court’s jury instructions defining “serious bodily injury” as to victim E.D. The court noted that while it prefers trial courts to use the Pattern Jury Instructions, an instruction is sufficient if it adequately explains each essential element of the offense. The Pattern Instruction provides that “[s]erious bodily injury is bodily injury that creates or causes [a substantial risk of death][serious permanent disfigurement].” Here, the trial court’s instruction stated, in pertinent part: “Serious bodily injury is injury that creates or causes a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement.” Although the trial court’s instruction was imperfect, the jury was not misled:

The instruction, viewed as a whole, correctly placed the burden of proof on the State for the two elements of felonious assault inflicting serious bodily injury. The trial court merely conjoined the language of two parentheticals from the pattern jury instruction. Moreover, the evidence put on by the State goes to prove the creation of serious permanent disfigurement, not a risk of serious substantial disfigurement. Therefore, even though the jury was incorrectly instructed that the State’s burden may be satisfied by the Defendant causing a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, the State’s evidence sufficiently proved that E.D. actually suffered serious permanent disfigurement. We cannot say that it is reasonably probable that the outcome would have been different, but for the error in the jury instruction.

 

In a case in which the defendant was convicted, among other things, of assault with a deadly weapon on a governmental official, the trial court committed plain error by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of misdemeanor assault on a government official. Because the trial court did not conclude as matter of law that the weapon was a deadly one, but rather left the issue for the jury to decide, it should have instructed on the lesser included non-deadly weapon offense.

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