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., 10/21/2021
E.g., 10/21/2021

Although the trial court erred by admitting into evidence in this stalking case approximately 28 photographs of firearms, ammunition, and surveillance equipment found throughout the defendant’s home during the execution of a search warrant, the error did not amount to prejudicial error. Photographs of the defendant’s firearms, ammunition, and surveillance equipment - all of which the defendant legally possessed at the time the search warrant was executed - were wholly irrelevant to the issue of whether the defendant committed the offense of stalking. The court thus agreed with the defendant that the probative value of the photographs was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice, and that the trial court should have exercised its discretion to exclude this evidence. The court went on to conclude that in light of the overwhelming additional evidence presented at trial, the defendant failed to show that the admission of the photographs amounted to prejudicial error.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that two photos from a photo line-up were irrelevant. The victims had identified the photographs during a photo lineup as depicting the perpetrator. The photographs were admitted as substantive evidence and published to the jury at trial without objection. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the photos were irrelevant where no witness testified that the defendant was in fact the person depicted in them. The court found that the photographs were properly authenticated by testifying witnesses and the jury “was well able” to look at them and to look at the defendant in the courtroom and draw their own conclusions about whether he was the person depicted.

In this case involving second-degree murder arising out of a vehicle collision, the trial court did not err by admitting staged photographs into evidence. An expert in crash investigation and reconstruction explained to the jury, without objection, how the accident occurred. The photographs were relevant as visual aids to this testimony. Furthermore, the trial court gave a limiting instruction explaining that the photographs were only to be used for the purpose of illustrating the witness’s testimony.

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 an armed robbery case, the trial court did not err by admitting three photographs of the defendant and his tattoos, taken at the jail after his arrest. The photographs were relevant to identity where crime scene surveillance camera footage clearly showed the location and general dimensions of one of the robber’s tattoos, even though the specifics of it were not visible on the footage. 

In this multiple murder case the trial court properly admitted crime scene and autopsy photographs of the victims’ bodies. Forty-two crime scene photos were admitted to illustrate the testimony of the crime scene investigator who processed the scene. The trial court also admitted crime scene diagrams containing seven photographs. Additionally autopsy photos were admitted. The court easily concluded that the photos were relevant. Furthermore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by finding the photographs admissible over the defendant’s Rule 403 objection.

(1) In a case involving murder and other charges, the trial court properly admitted a picture of the defendant with a silver revolver to illustrate a witness’s testimony that she saw the defendant at her apartment with a silver gun with a black handle. Before being received into evidence, the witness testified that the gun depicted appeared to be the same gun that the defendant had at her apartment. (2) The trial court did not abuse its discretion by concluding that the prejudice caused by the photograph did not substantially outweigh probative value.

The trial court did not commit plain error under Rules 401 or 403 by admitting photographs of the murder victim’s body. The trial court admitted 28 photographs and diagrams of the interior of the home where the victim was found, 12 of which depicted the victim’s body. The trial court also admitted 11 autopsy photographs. An officer used the first set of photos to illustrate the position and condition of the victim’s body and injuries sustained. A forensic pathology expert testified to his observations while performing the autopsy and the photographs illustrated the condition of the body as it was received and during the course of the autopsy. The photographs had probative value and that value, in conjunction with testimony by the officer and the expert was not substantially outweighed by their prejudicial effect.

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