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., 10/03/2022
E.g., 10/03/2022

In this Forsyth County case, the Supreme Court modified and affirmed the Court of Appeals majority opinion denying defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim.  

In 2004, as a juvenile, defendant pleaded guilty to two counts of armed robbery, and was convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, and attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon. The two counts of armed robbery arose from the robbery of two convenience stores, a separate criminal transaction from the murder, kidnapping, and attempted robbery charges. The trial court provided a sentence of life without parole for first-degree murder, 95 to 123 months for each of the robbery charges, 77 to 102 months for the attempted robbery charge (later arrested by the court), and 29 to 44 months for the kidnapping charge, all to run consecutively. 

After Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), defendant filed a motion for appropriate relief (MAR) attempting to have his life without parole sentence converted to life with the possibility of parole, and to have all his sentences run concurrently. Defendant’s MAR was allowed by the trial court, and proceeded to resentencing at a hearing in April 2021, where defendant’s counsel specifically told the court that the two armed robbery offenses were not under consideration for resentencing, despite being identified in the motion. Defense counsel told the court she was “not referring to the other armed robberies because they are not related, even though they were sentenced at the same time.” Slip Op. at ¶10. After the hearing, defendant was resentenced to life with the possibility of parole to be run consecutively with his sentence for first-degree kidnapping. The armed robbery charges were not altered.

On appeal, defendant argued that he received ineffective assistance of counsel due to his counsel’s decision not to request concurrent sentences for all convictions. The Court of Appeals majority rejected this argument, noting that this interpretation of N.C.G.S. § 15A-1354(a) was “at best, resting on unsettled law, and at worst, meritless.” Slip Op. at ¶12, quoting State v. Oglesby, 2021-NCCOA-354 (2021). This conclusion was the basis for the Supreme Court’s modification. 

Reviewing defendant’s appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that the Court of Appeals had incorrectly interpreted N.C.G.S. § 15A-1354(a), explaining “the resentencing court possessed the authority to choose to run his life with parole sentence consecutively or concurrently with the other sentences ‘imposed on [him] at the same time’ as his original sentence.” Slip Op. at ¶19. Turning to the merits of defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance, the court agreed with the Court of Appeals that defendant could not demonstrate prejudice, noting that the resentencing court chose not to run the murder and kidnapping charges concurrently after hearing the MAR, making it nonsensical that the resentencing court would have chosen to impose concurrent sentences for the two armed robbery charges in addition to the other two charges.

The trial court exceeded its statutory authority by mandating that any later sentence imposed on the defendant must run consecutive to the sentence imposed in the case at hand. The court, however, declined to vacate the relevant portion of the judgment, concluding that because the defendant had not yet been ordered to serve a consecutive sentence, such an opinion would be advisory.

G.S. 15A-1340.15(b) requires that when offenses are consolidated for judgment, the trial judge must enter a sentence for the most serious offense.

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