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., 10/06/2022
E.g., 10/06/2022

In this Edgecombe County case, defendant appealed his convictions of obtaining property by false pretenses and exploitation of a disabled or elderly person in a business relationship. The Court of Appeals found no error and affirmed defendant’s convictions. 

Defendant approached an 88-year-old woman at her home and offered to assist her with home improvement work. After claiming to perform several tasks and having the homeowner agree to invoices, an investigation determined that defendant did not perform the work he claimed, and he was indicted for the charges in this matter. Before the criminal trial, the elderly homeowner filed for a civil no-contact order against defendant. Defendant did not appear at the hearing and did not cross-examine any witnesses; the no-contact order was entered against defendant at the conclusion of the hearing. Defendant subsequently filed motions attempting to inspect the property in question, and the trial court denied those motions. The homeowner died prior to the criminal trial and the trial court entered an order admitting her testimony from the no-contact civil hearing. 

Defendant’s appeal asserted two errors by the trial court: (1) admission of the testimony of the homeowner from the civil hearing, and (2) denial of his motion to inspect the property. The Court of Appeals first considered the admission of testimony and the confrontation clause issues involved, applying the three-prong test articulated in State v. Clark, 165 N.C. App. 279 (2004). The court determined that defendant did have a meaningful opportunity to cross-examine the homeowner in the civil hearing, but he did not take advantage of that opportunity. Because that hearing was on matters substantially similar to the criminal trial, defendant waived his opportunity by not cross-examining the homeowner. The similarity of matters also supported the court’s hearsay analysis, as it found that the testimony was admissible under the exception in North Carolina Rule of Evidence 804(b)(1). The court also found that the admission of the no-contact order did not represent plain error under N.C.G.S. § 1-149 and was not a violation of defendant’s due process rights. 

Considering defendant’s second issue, the court explained that there is no general right to discovery in a criminal case, and defendant identified no clear grounds for discovery to be required in this matter. AlthoughState v. Brown, 306 N.C. 151 (1982), provides criminal defendants may have a right to inspect a crime scene under limited circumstances, the court distinguished defendant’s situation from Brown. Specifically, defendant performed the work here himself and was not deprived of the ability to find exculpatory evidence, as he would have firsthand knowledge of the work and locations in question. The court found no right to inspect the property in this case and no error by the trial court in denying defendant’s request. 

No violation of the defendant’s confrontation rights occurred when the trial court admitted an unavailable witness’s testimony at a proceeding in connection with the defendant’s Alford plea under the Rule 804(b)(1) hearsay exception for former testimony. The witness was unavailable and the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine her at the plea hearing. 

State v. Ross, 216 N.C. App. 337 (Oct. 18, 2011)

Defense counsel’s cross-examination of a declarant at a probable cause hearing satisfied Crawford’s requirement of a prior opportunity for cross-examination. 

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