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
State v. Blankenship [Duplicated], ___ N.C. App. ___, 814 S.E.2d 901 (Apr. 17, 2018) temp. stay granted, ___ N.C. ___, 812 S.E.2d 666 (May 3 2018)

In this child sexual assault case, the trial court did not err by admitting hearsay statements of the victim. At issue were several statements by the child victim. In all of them, the victim said some version of “daddy put his weiner in my coochie.”

First, the trial court admitted the victim’s statements to the defendant’s parents, Gabrielle and Keith, as a present sense impression and an excited utterance and under the residual exception to Rule 804. The court reviewed this matter for plain error. The court began by finding that the victim’s statements were inadmissible as excited utterances. Although it found that the delay between the defendant’s acts and the victim’s statements does not bar their admission as excited utterances, it concluded that the State presented insufficient evidence to establish that the victim was under the stress of the startling event at the time she made the statements. In fact, the State presented no evidence of the victim’s stress. Next, the court considered the present sense impression exception to the hearsay rule. Present sense impressions, it explained, are statements describing or explaining an event or condition made while the declarant was perceiving the event or condition, or immediately thereafter. Here, the trial court erred by admitting the statements as present sense impressions because the record lacked evidence of exactly when the sexual misconduct occurred. However, the statements were properly admitted under the residual exception to Rule 804. There is a six-part test for admitting statements under the residual exception. Here, the trial court failed to make any conclusions regarding the second part of that test, whether the hearsay is covered by any of the exceptions listed in Rule 804(b)(1)-(4). Additionally, with respect to the third part of the test—whether the hearsay statement was trustworthy—the trial court failed to include in the record findings of fact and conclusions of law that the statements possess circumstantial guarantees of trustworthiness. Although the trial court determined that the statements possess a guarantee of trustworthiness, it found no facts to support that conclusion. This was error. However, the court went on to conclude that the record established the required guarantees of trustworthiness. Specifically: the victim had personal knowledge of the events; the victim had no motivation to fabricate the statements; the victim never recanted; and the victim was unavailable because of her lack of memory of the events. The court noted that in this case the parties had stipulated that the victim was unavailable due to lack of memory, not due to an inability to distinguish truth from fantasy. Additionally, the court concluded that the defendant suffered no prejudice from the trial court’s failure to explicitly state that none of the other Rule 804 exceptions applied. Having concluded that the statements had a sufficient guarantee of trustworthiness, the court found that the trial court did not err by admitting the statements under the Rule 804 residual exception.

Second, the trial court admitted statements by the victim to Adrienne Opdike, a former victim advocate at the Children’s Advocacy and Protection Center, under the residual exception of Rule 804. Referring to its analysis of the victim’s statements to Gabrielle and Keith, the court concluded that the statement to Opdike has sufficient guarantees of trustworthiness and that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting it under the Rule 804 residual exception.

Third, the trial court admitted statements by the victim to a relative, Bobbi, as a present sense impression and under the Rule 804 residual exception. The court reviewed this issue for plain error. Relying on its analysis with respect to the victim’s statements to Gabrielle and Keith, the court held that the trial court erred by admitting the statement to Bobbi as a present sense impression. However, the trial court did not err, or abuse its discretion, in admitting the statement under the Rule 804 residual exception. The trial court adequately performed the six-part analysis that applies to the residual exception and the statement has sufficient guarantees of trustworthiness

Fourth, the trial court admitted statements by the victim to Amy Walker Mahaffey, a registered nurse in the emergency room, under the medical diagnosis and treatment exception. Although it found the issue a close one, the court determined that it need not decide whether the trial court erred by admitting the statement under this exception because even if error occurred, the defendant failed to show prejudice. Specifically, the trial court properly admitted substantially identical statements made by the victim to others.

A victim’s statement to his mother, made in the emergency room approximately 50 minutes after a shooting and identifying the defendant as the shooter, was a present sense impression under Rule 803(1). The time period between the shooting and the statement was sufficiently brief. The court noted that the focus of events during the gap in time was on saving the victim’s life, thereby reducing the likelihood of deliberate or conscious misrepresentation.

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