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., 09/26/2021
E.g., 09/26/2021
State v. McGrady, 368 N.C. 880 (June 10, 2016)

Affirming the decision below, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that the defendant’s proffered expert testimony did not meet the standard for admissibility under Rule 702(a). The defendant offered its expert to testify on three principal topics: that, based on the “pre-attack cues” and “use of force variables” present in the interaction between the defendant and the victim, the defendant’s use of force was a reasonable response to an imminent, deadly assault that the defendant perceived; that the defendant’s actions and testimony are consistent with those of someone experiencing the sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response; and that reaction times can explain why some of the defendant’s defensive shots hit the victim in the back. Holding (for reasons discussed in detail in the court’s opinion) that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding this testimony, the court determined that the 2011 amendment to Rule 702(a) adopts the federal standard for the admission of expert witness articulated in the Daubert line of cases. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993).

In this homicide case, the trial court did not err by excluding the expert opinion testimony of a forensic psychologist about the phenomenon of “fight or flight.” Citing the North Carolina Supreme Court’s McGrady decision the court noted that the expert did not possess any medical or scientific degrees. This led the trial court to determine that the expert would not provide insight beyond the conclusions that the jurors could readily draw from their own ordinary experiences. The trial court acted well within its discretion in making this determination. The expert’s testimony was not proffered to explain a highly technical and scientific issue in simpler terms for the jury. Rather her testimony appeared to be proffered “in order to cast a sheen of technical and scientific methodology onto a concept of which a lay person (and jury member) would probably already be aware.” As such, it did not provide insight beyond the conclusions that the jurors could readily draw from their ordinary experience. 

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