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., 09/21/2021
E.g., 09/21/2021

In this voluntary manslaughter case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to find extraordinary mitigation. Although the court found numerous mitigating factors, it found no extraordinary mitigation in the defendant’s case; the trial court sentenced the defendant to the lowest possible sentence in the mitigated range. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court misunderstood the applicable law, finding that the transcript of the sentencing hearing reveals that the trial court understood the extraordinary mitigation statute and exercised proper discretion.

 

(1) The trial court did not put the burden on the State to disprove extraordinary mitigating factors. After the defendant presented evidence of mitigating factors, the trial court asked the State to respond to the defendant’s evidence by explaining why it believed these factors were not sufficient reasons for finding extraordinary mitigation. The trial court did not presume extraordinary mitigating factors and then ask the State to present evidence to explain why they did not exist. (2) The trial court erred by finding extraordinary mitigation. The trial court found ten statutory mitigating factors and four extraordinary factors. Two extraordinary factors were the same as corresponding normal statutory mitigating factors and thus were insufficient to support a finding of extraordinary mitigation. The third factor was not a proper factor in support of mitigation; the fourth was not supported by the evidence.

The trial court abused its discretion by determining that two normal mitigating factors, without additional facts being present, constituted extraordinary mitigation.

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