Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

About

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.

Instructions

Navigate using the table of contents to the left or by using the search box below. Use quotations for an exact phrase search. A search for multiple terms without quotations functions as an “or” search. Not sure where to start? The 5 minute video tutorial offers a guided tour of main features – Launch Tutorial (opens in new tab).

E.g., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021
State v. Lewis, 365 N.C. 488 (Apr. 13, 2012)

Reversing the court of appeals, the court held that the trial court did not violate the defendant’s due process rights by allowing the State to present evidence of a knife allegedly used during the crime at the defendant’s retrial. The knife had been seized from the defendant’s residence and was admitted into evidence during the defendant’s first trial. However, the knife was not available at the retrial because it had been destroyed after the defendant’s first conviction was affirmed. Before the retrial the defense unsuccessfully moved to limit evidence regarding the knife. The court noted that under California v. Trombetta, 467 U.S. 479 (1984), “[t]he duty imposed by the Constitution on the State to preserve evidence is limited to evidence that might be expected to play a significant role in the suspect’s defense.” It continued: “[t]o meet this standard of constitutional materiality, evidence must both possess an exculpatory value that was apparent before the evidence was destroyed, and be of such a nature that the defendant would be unable to obtain comparable evidence by other reasonably available means.” (quotation omitted). Applying this test, the court concluded that the evidence did not meet the constitutional materiality threshold required by Trombetta. According to the defendant, the knife was the only physical evidence linking him to the crime and if it had been available at the retrial, he would have been able to compare the recovered knife with the victim’s description to show that the victim’s identification of the knife as the one used by the attacker was not credible. The court concluded however that although the knife was unavailable, defense counsel was able to challenge the victim’s identification of the knife by using cross-examination to point out that its handle had been inside the assailant’s hand. While cross-examining the lead detective defense counsel also established that the victim’s nightgown had been left bloody by the assault but that the recovered knife was tested for blood and DNA and found to be “clean.” Thus, the court concluded, despite the knife’s unavailability, defense counsel was able to elicit impeaching testimony from the State’s witnesses concerning the knife. It held: “In the absence of an allegation that the evidence was destroyed in bad faith, we conclude that the State’s failure to preserve the knife for defendant’s retrial did not violate defendant’s right to due process.”

Show Table of Contents