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., 10/18/2021
E.g., 10/18/2021

In this felony-murder case, although the court was “uncertain of the relevance” of certain photos that the State introduced and questioned the defendant about regarding gang activity, the court found no plain error with respect to their introduction.

In this murder case, the trial court did not err by excluding the defendant’s proffered evidence about the victim’s gang membership. The defendant asserted that the evidence was relevant to self-defense. However, none of the proffered evidence pertained to anything that the defendant actually knew at the time of the incident.

In an attempted murder and assault case, the trial court committed plain error by allowing an officer to testify about gangs and gang-related activity where the evidence was not relevant to guilt or to the aggravating factor that the crimes were gang-related. The State’s theory was that the defendant attacked the victim because he was having a sexual relationship with the defendant’s aunt, not because of gang activity. Thus, gang evidence “was neither relevant to the alleged criminal act nor to the aggravating factor of which the State had given notice of its intent to show.” Additionally, the testimony carried the danger of unfair prejudice that substantially outweighed its non-existent probative value under Rule 403.

(1) The trial court erred by admitting evidence concerning the history of the Bloods gang and the activities of various Bloods subsets. The court noted that “[e]vidence of gang membership is generally inadmissible unless it is relevant to the issue of guilt.” Here, the court was unable to determine how the evidence was relevant and concluded that its effect “was to depict a ‘violent’ gang subculture of which [the defendant] was a part and to impermissibly portray [the defendant] as having acted in accordance with gang-related proclivities.” (2) The trial court did not err by allowing evidence about the hierarchy of gang structure when evidence regarding the defendant’s position in the gang was relevant to the extortion-related charges. The evidence helped explain why the defendant thought that he could induce a third party to confess to a robbery; placed into context his statements that the third party would be murdered if he did not turn himself in; and helped explain the third party’s decision to confess. (3) The trial court did not err by admitting photographs of the defendant’s tattoos and related testimony describing the relationship between some of these tattoos and Bloods symbols where that evidence also explained the defendant’s position in gang hierarchy (see discussion above). (4) Evidence of a telephone call between the defendant and his wife in which he described violent acts he would perform on her if she were a man was not relevant and had little purpose other than to show the defendant’s violent propensities.

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