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., 09/17/2021
E.g., 09/17/2021

(1) In this child sexual assault case, the trial court did not err by failing to find the mitigating factor that the defendant successfully completed a substance abuse program. Because the defendant completed the program prior to his arrest, his participation in it did not meet the requirements of G.S. 15A-1340.16(e)(16). (2) The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court abused its discretion by failing to treat his completion of the program as a non-statutory mitigating factor. (3) The trial court did not err by failing to find the mitigating factor that the defendant had a positive employment history. Even if the defendant’s evidence established that he had a professional bull riding career, he retired from that profession in 2007 and did not present evidence that he was gainfully employed between that date and his arrest in 2014.

State v. Lee, ___ N.C. App. ___, 789 S.E.2d 679 (Aug. 2, 2016) rev’d on other grounds, 370 N.C. 671 (Apr 6 2018)

Because the trial court did not depart from the presumptive range in sentencing the defendant, it was not required to make any findings regarding mitigation. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erroneously failed to “consider” evidence of mitigating factors proved by the State’s own evidence.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to find two statutory mitigating factors with respect to a 17-year-old defendant: G.S. 15A-1340.16(e)(4) (defendant’s “age, or immaturity, at the time of the commission of the offense significantly reduced defendant’s culpability for the offense") and G.S. 15A-1340.16(e)(18) (“defendant has a support system in the community”). 

Trial court did not err by declining to find two statutory mitigating factors: G.S. 15A-1340.16(e)(12) (good character/reputation in the community) and 15A-1340.16(e)(19) (positive employment history). The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence supporting each factor was uncontradicted and manifestly credible.

In a drug trafficking case, the trial court did not err by failing to intervene ex mero motu during the prosecutor’s closing argument. The prosecutor asserted: “Think about the type of people who are in that world and who would be able to testify and witness these type of events. I submit to you that when you try the devil, you have to go to hell to get your witness. When you try a drug case, you have to get people who are involved in that world. Clearly the evidence shows that [the defendant] was in that world. He’s an admitted drug dealer and admitted drug user.” Citing State v. Willis, 332 N.C. 151, 171 (1992), the court concluded that the prosecutor was not characterizing the defendant as the devil but rather was using this phrase to illustrate the type of witnesses which were available in this type of case.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by refusing the defendant’s request for a mitigated sentence despite uncontroverted evidence of mitigating circumstances. The defendant offered uncontroverted evidence of mitigating factors and the trial court considered this evidence during the sentencing hearing. That the trial court did not, however, find any mitigating factors and chose to sentence the defendant in the presumptive range was within its discretion.

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to find mitigating factors. As to acceptance of responsibility, the court found that although the defendant apologized for her actions, her statement did not lead to the “sole inference that [s]he accepted [and that] [s]he was answerable for the result of [her] criminal conduct.” Although defense counsel argued other mitigating factors, no supporting evidence was presented to establish them. Finally, although the defendant alleged that a drug addiction compelled her to commit the offenses, the court noted that drug addiction is not per se a statutorily enumerated mitigating factor and in any event, the defendant did not present any evidence on this issue at sentencing.

The trial court did not err by failing to find the G.S. 15A-1340.16(e)(8) mitigating factor that the defendant acted under strong provocation or that the relationship between the defendant and the victim was otherwise extenuating. As to an extenuating relationship, the evidence showed only that the victim (who was the defendant’s wife) repeatedly had extra-marital sexual relationships and that the couple fought about that behavior. As to provocation, there was no evidence that the victim physically threatened or challenged the defendant in any way; the only threat she made was to commit further adultery and to report the defendant as an abuser.

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