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., 07/25/2024
E.g., 07/25/2024
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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