Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium


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., 10/04/2023
E.g., 10/04/2023

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 had jurisdiction to sentence the defendant after a mandate issued from the Court of Appeals. The defendant appealed his sentence following multiple convictions for sex offense charges. He argued that after the Court of Appeals filed an opinion vacating his original sentence and remanding for resentencing, the trial court improperly resentenced him before the Court of Appeals had issued the mandate. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the mandate had not issued at the time of resentencing. It held that the mandate from the appellate division issues on the day that the appellate court transmits the mandate to the lower court, not the day that the lower court actually receives the mandate.


(1) Over a dissent, the court held that the trial court properly conducted a de novo sentencing hearing on remand from the appellate division. Notwithstanding the fact that the new sentence was the same as the original sentence, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court merely deferred to the prior judge’s sentencing determination. (2) On remand the trial court did not err by leaving the original restitution order in place against the defendant. The appellate decision remanding the case found no error with respect to the amount of restitution; that decision thus “clearly resolved and foreclosed any consideration” of the originally entered restitution award.

On remand, the trial court properly conducted a de novo sentencing hearing. 

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court did not appreciate that a resentencing hearing must be de novo. 

State v. Paul, 231 N.C. App. 448 (Dec. 17, 2013)

On remand for resentencing, the trial court did not violate the law of the case doctrine. The resentencing was de novo and the trial court properly considered the State’s evidence of an additional prior felony conviction when calculating prior record level.

(1) The trial court properly conducted a de novo review on resentencing, even though the defendant was sentenced to the same term that he received at the original sentencing hearing. (2) At a resentencing during which new evidence was presented, the trial court did not err by failing to find a mitigating factor of limited mental capacity, a factor that had been found at the first sentencing hearing.

State v. Bowden, 367 N.C. 680 (Dec. 19, 2014)

Reversing the court of appeals, the court held that the defendant, who was in the class of inmates whose life sentence was deemed to be a sentence of 80 years, was not entitled to immediate release. The defendant argued that various credits he accumulated during his incarceration (good time, gain time, and merit time) must be applied to reduce his sentence of life imprisonment, thereby entitling him to immediate and unconditional release. The DOC has applied these credits towards privileges like obtaining a lower custody grade or earlier parole eligibility, but not towards the calculation of an unconditional release date. The court found the case indistinguishable from its prior decision in Jones v. Keller, 364 N.C. 249, 254 (2010).

In a per curiam decision, the court reversed the court of appeals for the reasons stated in the dissenting opinion. In the opinion below, Lovette v. North Carolina Department of Correction, 222 N.C. App. 452 (2012), the court of appeals, over a dissent, affirmed a trial court order holding that the petitioners had fully served their life sentences after credits had been applied to their unconditional release dates. Both petitioners were sentenced to life imprisonment under former G.S. 14-2, which provided that a life sentence should be considered as imprisonment for eighty years. They filed habeas petitions alleging that based on credits for “gain time,” “good time,” and “meritorious service” and days actually served, they had served their entire sentences and were entitled to be discharged from incarceration. The trial court distinguished Jones v. Keller, 364 N.C. 249 (2010) (in light of the compelling State interest in maintaining public safety, regulations do not require that the DOC apply time credits for purposes of unconditional release to those who committed first-degree murder during the 8 Apr. 1974 through 30 June 1978 time frame and were sentenced to life imprisonment), on grounds that the petitioners in the case at hand were not convicted of first-degree murder (one was convicted of second-degree murder; the other was convicted for second-degree burglary). The trial court went on to grant the petitioners relief. The State appealed. The court of appeals held that the trial court did not err by distinguishing the case from Jones. The court also rejected the State’s argument that the trial court’s order changed the petitioners’ sentences and violated separation of powers. Judge Ervin dissented, concluding that the trial court's order should be reversed. According to Judge Ervin, the Jones applied and required the conclusion that the petitioners were not entitled to have their earned time credits applied against their sentences for purposes of calculating their unconditional release date.

Jones v. Keller, 364 N.C. 249 (Aug. 27, 2010)

The trial court erred by granting the petitioner habeas corpus relief from incarceration on the grounds that he had accumulated various credits against his life sentence, imposed on September 27, 1976. The petitioner had argued that when his good time, gain time, and merit time were credited to his life sentence, which was statutorily defined as a sentence of 80 years, he was entitled to unconditional release. The court rejected that argument, concluding that DOC allowed credits to the petitioner’s sentence only for limited purposes that did not include calculating an unconditional release date. DOC had asserted that it recorded gain and merit time for the petitioner in the event that his sentence was commuted, at which time they would be applied to calculate a release date; DOC asserted that good time was awarded solely to allow him to move to the least restrictive custody grade and to calculate a parole eligibility date. The court found that the limitations imposed by DOC on these credits were statutorily and constitutionally permissible and that, therefore, the petitioner’s detention was lawful. The court also rejected the petitioner’s ex post facto and equal protection arguments.

For the reasons stated in Jones (discussed above), the court held that the trial court erred by granting the petitioner habeas corpus relief from incarceration on the grounds that she had accumulated various credits against her life sentence.

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