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., 01/26/2023
E.g., 01/26/2023
State v. Waring, 364 N.C. 443 (Nov. 5, 2010)

The trial court properly sustained the State’s objection to the defendant’s attempt to introduce opinion testimony regarding his IQ from a special education teacher who met the defendant when he was eleven years old. Because the witness had not been tendered as an expert, her speculation as to IQ ranges was inadmissible.

In this Wake County case, defendant appealed his convictions for statutory rape and taking indecent liberties with a child, arguing the trial court improperly excluded testimony from his expert. The Court of Appeals dismissed defendant’s appeal.

In 2019, defendant had sex with a 15-year-old girl who he intercepted on her walk home from a bus stop. When the case reached trial, defendant attempted to have his expert, a registered nurse, testify that the victim was not penetrated by defendant. The State challenged this testimony under Rule of Evidence 704. After voir dire of the expert, the trial court would not allow her to testify regarding whether a sexual assault occurred, and defendant chose not to call her due to the limitation on her testimony. Defendant was convicted on all charges and timely appealed. Due to significant procedural errors in his notice of appeal, defendant filed a petition for writ of certiorari.

Walking through the procedural issues with defendant’s appeal, the court first noted the missing certificate of service issue was waived by the State when they failed to raise the issue and filed a reply brief. The court then pointed out defendant preserved the expert testimony issue for appeal by objecting during the trial, drawing a contrast with the procedural defect present in State v. Ricks, 378 N.C. 737, 741. Slip Op. at 10-11. However, defendant failed to “designate the judgment or order from which appeal is taken” as required by Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(b). This defect meant that defendant was required to show merit or prejudice justifying the issuance of a writ of certiorari to proceed. Id. at 12. 

The court turned to the expert testimony issue under Rule of Evidence 702, explaining the two-prong test applicable to expert testimony conducted under the trial court’s discretion. The court explained the “trial court first applied the factors outlined in [Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993)] when determining whether [defendant’s expert] was qualified as an expert, focusing on the absence of reliable principles and methods,” then “contemplated how to balance [defendant’s expert’s] lack of credentials and training with [d]efendant’s right to present a defense.” Id. at 15. Defendant failed to show any abuse of the trial court’s discretion during this process, leading the court to deny his petition and dismiss the appeal.

In this burning of a building case, the trial court did not commit plain error by allowing Investigator Gullie to offer expert opinion testimony. Investigator Gullie testified at trial without objection. Noting the procedural posture of the case, the court stated:

In challenging the trial court’s performance of its gatekeeping function for plain error, defendant implicitly asks this Court to hold the trial court’s failure to sua sponte render a ruling that Investigator Gullie was qualified to testify as an expert pursuant to Rule 702 amounted to error. And to accept defendant’s premise would impose upon this Court the task of determining from a cold record whether Investigator Gullie’s opinion testimony required that he be qualified as an expert in fire investigation, where neither the State nor defendant respectively sought to proffer Investigator Gullie as an expert or challenge his opinion before the trial court.

The court went on to hold that even assuming the trial court erred, the defendant could not establish plain error in light of other evidence presented in the case.

A laboratory technician who testified that substances found by law enforcement officers contained cocaine was properly qualified as an expert even though she did not possess an advanced degree.

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