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 a first-degree murder trial, the trial court did not err by admitting a jail letter that the defendant wrote to an accomplice in “Crip” gang code. In the letter, the defendant asked the accomplice to kill a third accomplice because he was talking to police. Rejecting the defendant’s argument that the evidence should have been excluded under Rule 403, the court determined that the fact that the defendant solicited the murder of a State’s witness was highly relevant and that the defendant’s gang membership was necessary to understand the context and relevance of the letter, which had to be translated by an accomplice. Additionally, the trial court repeatedly instructed the jury that they were only to consider the gang evidence as an explanation for the note.

In a homicide case in which the defendant asserted self-defense, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence that the defendant had been selling drugs in the vicinity of the shooting and was affiliated with a gang. The evidence showed that both the defendant and the victim were gang members. The court held that gang affiliation and selling drugs were relevant to show that the defendant could have had a different objective in mind when the altercation took place and could refute the defendant’s claim of self-defense.

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