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., 12/11/2023
E.g., 12/11/2023

In this Richmond County case, the defendant was found guilty by a jury of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill for shooting an acquaintance during an argument, and, during the same incident, shooting another acquaintance who was standing nearby in the leg. The defendant had been drinking for more than six hours before he shot the victims. After he began drinking and several hours before the shooting, he displayed a gun in front of a child. After the shooting, he drove to another acquaintance’s house and honked his car horn for thirty minutes.  At trial, he requested that the judge instruct the jury on voluntary intoxication. The judge refused this request.

(1) On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on voluntary intoxication. The defendant contended there was substantial evidence that, because of his intoxication, he could not form a deliberate and premeditated intent to kill the victim. The Court of Appeals concluded that although there was evidence that the defendant was very intoxicated and acted recklessly some hours before the shooting, there was not substantial evidence that he was intoxicated to the point he could not control himself and could not form the intent to kill the victim. The Court noted that the defendant shot and killed the victim following an argument and then drove away from the scene, arriving at an acquaintance’s house without getting into an accident. Hours after the shooting, he told officers that he shot the deceased victim in self-defense. Thus, the Court concluded that the trial court did not err in not instructing the jury on voluntary intoxication.

(2) The defendant also argued on appeal that the trial court erred in admitting the handgun used in the shootings during testimony from the pawnbroker who transferred the gun to the defendant. This took place early in the trial and before the State presented evidence that the handgun was used to shoot the victims. The Court of Appeals determined that the trial court did not err in admitting the handgun before its relevance had been established as the State later presented evidence connecting the handgun to the shootings. The defendant also argued that the trial court erred by admitting the handgun because the State did not establish a chain of custody. Even assuming the defendant preserved this issue for appeal and that the trial court erred in this regard, the Court found that the error did not prejudice the defendant in light of other overwhelming evidence of the defendant’s guilt.

In this homicide case, the trial court did not err by admitting evidence of four firearms found in the car when the defendant was arrested following a traffic stop. The State offered the evidence to show the circumstances surrounding defendant’s flight. Defendant argued that the evidence was irrelevant and inadmissible because nothing connected the firearms to the crime. The court disagreed:

Defendant ran away from the scene immediately after he stabbed [the victim]. Three days later, he was apprehended following a traffic stop in South Carolina. Defendant, who was riding as a passenger in another person’s car, possessed a passport bearing a fictitious name. Also found in the car was a piece of paper with directions to a mosque located in Laredo, Texas. Four firearms were found inside the passenger compartment of the car: a loaded assault rifle, two sawed-off shotguns, and a loaded pistol. The circumstances surrounding defendant’s apprehension in South Carolina, the passport, the paper containing directions to a specific place in Texas, and the firearms are relevant evidence of flight.

In a murder case, the trial court did not err by admitting testimony concerning nine-millimeter ammunition and a gun found at the defendant’s house. Evidence concerning the ammunition was relevant because it tended to link the defendant to the scene of the crime, where eleven shell casings of the same brand and caliber were found, thus allowing the jury to infer that the defendant was the perpetrator. The trial court had ruled that evidence of the gun—which was not the murder weapon—was inadmissible and the State complied with this ruling on direct. However, in order to dispel any suggestion that the defendant possessed the nine-millimeter gun used in the shooting, the defendant elicited testimony that a nine-millimeter gun found in his house, in which the nine-millimeter ammunition was found, was not the murder weapon. The court held that the defendant could not challenge the admission of testimony that he first elicited.

In this multiple murder case where the defendant killed the victims with a shotgun, evidence of firearms and ammunition found in the defendant’s residence, ammunition found in his truck, instructions for claymore mines found on his kitchen table, and unfruitful searches of two residences for such mines was relevant to show the defendant’s advanced planning and state of mind.

In a murder case, the trial court did not err by admitting a knife found four years after the crime at issue. The defendant objected on relevancy grounds. The defendant’s wife testified that he told her that he murdered the victim with a knife that matched the description of the one that was found, the defendant was seen on the day of the murder approximately 150 yards from where the knife was found, and the knife was consistent with the description of the likely murder weapon provided by the State’s pathologist. The court went on to find no abuse of discretion in admitting the knife under Rule 403.

In a drug trafficking and maintaining a dwelling case, evidence that a handgun and ammunition were found in the defendant’s home was relevant to both charges. 

In an armed robbery case, admission of evidence of two guns found in the defendant’s home was reversible error where “not a scintilla of evidence link[ed] either of the guns to the crimes charged.”

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