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., 09/22/2021
E.g., 09/22/2021

In this case involving a gang-related home invasion and murder, the trial court did not commit plain error by admitting rap lyrics found in a notebook in the defendant’s room. The lyrics, which were written before the killing, described someone “kick[ing] in the door” and “spraying” bullets with an AK47 in a manner that resembled how the victims were killed. The court concluded that the defendant failed to show that, absent the alleged error, the jury probably would have returned a different verdict.

State v. Ford, 245 N.C. App. 510 (Feb. 16, 2016)

In this voluntary manslaughter case, where the defendant’s pit bull attacked and killed the victim, the trial court did not err by admitting a rap song recording into evidence. The defendant argued that the song was irrelevant and inadmissible under Rule 403, in that it contained profanity and racial epithets which offended and inflamed the jury’s passions. The song lyrics claimed that the victim was not killed by a dog and that the defendant and the dog were scapegoats for the victim’s death. The song was posted on social media and a witness identified the defendant as the singer. The State offered the song to prove that the webpage in question was the defendant’s page and that the defendant knew his dog was vicious and was proud of that characteristic (other items posted on that page declared the dog a “killa”). The trial court did not err by determining that the evidence was relevant for the purposes offered. Nor did it err in determining that probative value was not substantially outweighed by prejudice.

In this homicide case where the defendant was charged with murdering his wife, the trial court did not err by admitting into evidence lyrics of a song, “Man Killer,” allegedly authored by defendant and containing lyrics about a murder, including “I’ll take the keys to your car”, “I’m just the one to make you bleed” and “I’ll put my hands on your throat and squeeze.” In this case the evidence showed that the victim’s car had been moved, the victim had been stabbed, and that defendant said he strangled the victim. The court concluded: “In light of the similarities between the lyrics and the facts surrounding the charged offense, the lyrics were relevant to establish identity, motive, and intent, and their probative value substantially outweighed their prejudicial effect to defendant.”

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