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

Two men were angry about being cheated in a drug deal. They approached a house and shot two other men – one fatally – who they thought were involved in the rip-off. The victims were on the front porch at the time of the shooting. Two women who were also on the porch viewed photo lineups in an attempt to identify the perpetrators. They both identified one suspect. Neither identified the defendant as the other man, though one said that his picture “looked like” the suspect. The defendant was charged with murder and other offenses. Several years later, a legal assistant with the district attorney’s office asked the women to come to the office for trial preparation. The legal assistant showed the women part of the defendant’s video-recorded interview with police as well as updated pictures of the defendant. One of the women looked out the window and saw the defendant, in a jail uniform and handcuffs, being led into the courthouse for a hearing. She immediately stated that he was one of the killers. The other woman came to the window and also saw the defendant. Both women later identified the defendant at trial as one of the perpetrators. The defendant argued that the identification was tainted by what he contended was a suggestive identification procedure conducted by the legal assistant. The trial judge found that the procedure was not unduly suggestive, and that in any event, the women’s in court testimony was based on their independent recollection of the events in question. The defendant was convicted and appealed. The court of appeals found the procedure to be impermissibly suggestive and reversed the defendant’s conviction. The State appealed, and the supreme court ruled: (1) The trial preparation session was an “impermissibly suggestive” identification procedure. Given that the women had not previously identified the defendant as a participant in the crime, the legal assistant’s “actions in showing [the women] the video of [the defendant’s] interview and recent photographs of [the defendant and the co-defendant] are exactly the kind of highly suggestive procedures that have been widely condemned as inherently suggestive” and amounted to improper “witness coaching.” (2) However, the procedure did not give “rise to a substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification . . . because the trial court’s findings of fact support the legal conclusion that [one of the women’s] in-court identification of defendant was of independent origin and sufficiently reliable.” Among other factors, the court highlighted the woman’s proximity to the perpetrators, her opportunity to observe them, and the fact that when she saw a picture of the defendant online shortly after the crime – wearing his hair in a style different from his lineup photo and apparently more similar to his appearance at the time of the crime – she identified him as a perpetrator. (3) Because one of the women made a valid in-court identification, any error in admitting the other woman’s identification of the defendant was harmless. Three Justices, dissenting in part, would not have addressed whether the procedure at issue was unduly suggestive and would have decided the case based only on the “independent origin” holding.

The defendant was indicted for attempted first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, and other offenses. The State alleged that the defendant shot a man and his wife, Bruce and Joanne Parker, as they were getting into their car in a darkened Charlotte parking lot. After shooting Mr. Parker, the defendant, who was accompanied by a male and female companion, took Mr. Parker’s wallet and cell phone.

Off-duty officers arrived on the scene shortly after the couple was shot and saw the defendant and his two companions leaving the scene in the defendant’s car. Mr. Parker identified the defendant as the person who shot him. The officers gave chase, and the defendant’s male companion, who was driving, crashed the car. The defendant and his companions ran from the car. The driver was apprehended. The defendant and his female companion ran into a parking garage, where they were captured on surveillance footage, but were not apprehended by officers. On the driver’s seat floorboard of the crashed car, officers found the gun used to shoot the couple, the husband’s cell phone and wallet, and a purse and driver’s license belonging to the defendant’s female companion. Forty-five minutes later, the defendant called law enforcement officers to report that he had been carjacked earlier in the evening.

A few days after the shooting, an officer came to Mr. Parker’s hospital room and showed him a photographic lineup. The defendant’s picture was in the lineup, but Mr. Parker identified another person as the shooter. During trial, Mr. Parker testified that he was able to make out the shooter’s face during the attack. He then, without objection, identified the defendant in the courtroom, stating that the defendant was “pretty much the same man as he was that night,” only that he “appeared a little bit thinner.”

(1) On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by denying his motion to dismiss because there was insufficient evidence both that he was the perpetrator of the offenses and that there was a conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, noting that Mr. Parker identified the car and the defendant as the shooter at the scene; that the officers saw the defendant leaving the scene and the car he was in; that Mr. Parker gave a description of the defendant that same night; that the description matched a person seen on surveillance after the car crashed; that the defendant was the owner of the car; and that Mr. Parker identified the defendant as the shooter in court. The Court also rejected the defendant’s insufficiency of the evidence argument regarding the conspiracy. The Court relied on State v. Lamb, 342 N.C. 151 (1995), and State v. Miles, 267 N.C. App. 78 (2019), in concluding that there was sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that the defendant acted in coordination with the other occupants of the vehicle to rob the Parkers with a dangerous weapon.

(2) The defendant next argued that the trial court erred by sustaining the State’s objection to the defendant’s question concerning a civil lawsuit filed by the Parkers against the owner of the parking lot alleging inadequate security. The defendant contended that the civil lawsuit was relevant because it showed that the Parkers had an interest in the outcome of the criminal prosecution. The Court has previously held that “where a witness for the prosecution has filed a civil suit for damages against the criminal defendant himself, the pendency of the suit is admissible to impeach the witness by showing the witness’s interest in the outcome of the criminal prosecution.” State v. Dixon, 77 N.C. App. 27, 31– 32 (1985); State v. Grant, 57 N.C. App. 589, 591 (1982). The Court concluded that because the civil suit was not filed against the defendant and because it was not necessary for the Parkers to prove in the civil suit that the defendant was the assailant, the pendency of the civil suit did not show Mr. Parker’s interest in the outcome of the criminal prosecution and was therefore not admissible to impeach the witness.

(3) The defendant’s final argument was that the trial court plainly erred by failing to exclude Mr. Parker’s in-court identification, which the defendant did not object to at trial. The defendant contended that the in-court identification was tainted by Mr. Parker’s exposure to media coverage of the case, his filing of a civil lawsuit that named the defendant as the assailant, the lapse of time, and his identification of someone other than the defendant in the photo lineup. The Court of Appeals concluded that these factors alone did not trigger due process concerns and that the alleged defects of the in-court identification were issues of credibility for the jury to resolve. The Court explained that absent any indication that the in-court identification was tainted by an impermissibly suggestive pre-trial identification procedure, there was no error, let alone plain error, in admitting Mr. Parker’s in-court identification.

In this drug case, the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence regarding in-court identifications on grounds that they were unreliable, tainted by an impermissibly suggestive DMV photograph. Detective Jurney conducted an undercover narcotics purchase from a man known as Junior, who arrived at the location in a gold Lexus. A surveillance team, including Sgt. Walker witnessed the transaction. Junior’s true identity was unknown at the time but Walker obtained the defendant’s name from a confidential informant. Several days after the transaction, Walker obtained a photograph of the defendant from the DMV and showed it to Jurney. Walker testified that he had seen the defendant on another occasion driving the same vehicle with the same license plate number as the one used during the drug transaction. At trial Jurney and Walker identified the defendant as the person who sold the drugs in the undercover purchase. The defendant was convicted and he appealed.

         On appeal the defendant argued that the trial court erred by failing to address whether the identification was impermissibly suggestive. The court found that although the trial court did not make an explicit conclusion of law that the identification procedure was not impermissibly suggestive it is clear that the trial court implicitly so concluded. The court found the defendant’s cited cases distinguishable, noting in part that there is no absolute prohibition on using a single photograph for an identification. The court noted that even if the trial court failed to conclude that the identification procedure was not impermissibly suggestive, it did not err in its alternative conclusion that the identification was reliable under the totality of the circumstances. It concluded:

While we recognize that it is the better practice to use multiple photos in a photo identification procedure, the trial court did not err in its conclusion that, in this case, the use of a single photo was not impermissibly suggestive. And even if the procedure was impermissibly suggestive, the trial court’s findings of fact also support a conclusion that the procedure did not create “a substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification.” The trial court’s findings of fact in this order are supported by competent evidence, and these factual findings support the trial court’s ultimate conclusions of law.

The trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress a victim’s identification of the defendant as the perpetrator. The defendant was charged with armed robbery of a Game Stop store and threatening use of a firearm against a store employee, Cintron, during the robbery. Although Cintron failed to identify an alleged perpetrator in a photographic lineup shown to him two days after the robbery, he later identified the defendant when shown a single still-frame photograph obtained from the store’s surveillance video. Cintron then identified the defendant as the perpetrator in the same photographic lineup shown to him two days after the robbery and again in four close-up, post-arrest photographs of the defendant showing his neck tattoos. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress Cintron’s in-court and out-of-court identifications.

          On appeal the defendant argued that the State conducted an impermissibly suggestive pretrial identification procedure that created a substantial likelihood of misidentification. The court rejected that argument, finding that the trial court’s challenged findings and conclusions—that the authorities substantially followed statutory and police department policies in each photo lineup and that the substance of any deviation from those policies revolved around the defendant’s neck tattoos—are supported by the evidence. The defendant fit the victim’s initial description of the perpetrator, which emphasized a tattoo of an Asian symbol on the left side of his neck and notable forehead creases. Based on this description, the victim had the ability to identify the defendant both in court and in photographs reflecting a close-up view of the defendant’s tattoos, and he specifically testified to his ability to recognize the defendant as the perpetrator independent of any lineup or photo he had been shown. Thus, the trial court’s ultimate conclusion—that the procedures did not give rise to a substantial likelihood that the defendant was mistakenly identified—is supported by the totality of the circumstances indicating that the identification was sufficiently reliable.

The trial court did not err by admitting in-court identification of the defendant by two officers. The defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the officers’ in-court identifications because the procedure they used to identify him violated the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act (EIRA) and his constitutional due process rights. After the officers observed the defendant at the scene, they returned to the police station and put the suspect’s name into their computer database. When a picture appeared, both officers identified the defendant as the perpetrator. The officers then pulled up another photograph of the defendant and confirmed that he was the perpetrator. This occurred within 10-15 minutes of the incident in question. The court concluded that the identification based on two photographs was not a “lineup” and therefore was not subject to the EIRA. Next, the court held that even assuming the procedure was impermissibly suggestive, the officers’ in-court identification was admissible because it was based on an independent source, their clear, close and unobstructed view of the suspect at the scene.

An armed robbery victim’s identification of the defendant in the courtroom did not violate due process. When contacted prior to trial for a photo lineup, the victim had refused to view the pictures. The victim saw the defendant for the first time since the robbery at issue when the victim saw him sitting in the courtroom immediately prior to trial. This identification, without law enforcement involvement or suggestion, was not impermissibly suggestive.

The trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress a victim’s identification of the defendant as the perpetrator. The defendant was charged with armed robbery of a Game Stop store and threatening use of a firearm against a store employee, Cintron, during the robbery. Although Cintron failed to identify an alleged perpetrator in a photographic lineup shown to him two days after the robbery, he later identified the defendant when shown a single still-frame photograph obtained from the store’s surveillance video. Cintron then identified the defendant as the perpetrator in the same photographic lineup shown to him two days after the robbery and again in four close-up, post-arrest photographs of the defendant showing his neck tattoos. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress Cintron’s in-court and out-of-court identifications.

          On appeal the defendant argued that the State conducted an impermissibly suggestive pretrial identification procedure that created a substantial likelihood of misidentification. The court rejected that argument, finding that the trial court’s challenged findings and conclusions—that the authorities substantially followed statutory and police department policies in each photo lineup and that the substance of any deviation from those policies revolved around the defendant’s neck tattoos—are supported by the evidence. The defendant fit the victim’s initial description of the perpetrator, which emphasized a tattoo of an Asian symbol on the left side of his neck and notable forehead creases. Based on this description, the victim had the ability to identify the defendant both in court and in photographs reflecting a close-up view of the defendant’s tattoos, and he specifically testified to his ability to recognize the defendant as the perpetrator independent of any lineup or photo he had been shown. Thus, the trial court’s ultimate conclusion—that the procedures did not give rise to a substantial likelihood that the defendant was mistakenly identified—is supported by the totality of the circumstances indicating that the identification was sufficiently reliable.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the identification procedure used violated the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act (EIRA). Although a non-independent administrator was used, the administrator satisfied the requirements of G.S. 15A-284.52(c) for such administrators (he used the folder method specified in the statute). Additionally, the administrator met the other requirements of the EIRA. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that plain error occurred because the administrator could not identify the specific five filler photographs that were used out of the seven total selected for the lineup. The court concluded that the administrator’s failure to recall which of the five filler photographs were used went to the weight of his testimony, not its admissibility. The court went on to hold that the trial court did not err by admitting the filler photographs into evidence.

(1) In a store robbery case, the court found no plain error in the trial court's determination that a photo lineup was not impermissibly suggestive. The defendant argued that the photo lineup was impermissibly suggestive because one of the officers administering the procedure was involved in the investigation, and that officer may have made unintentional movements or body language which could have influenced the eyewitness. The court noted that the eyewitness (a store employee) was 75% certain of his identification; the investigating officer’s presence was the only irregularity in the procedure; the eyewitness did not describe any suggestive actions on the part of the investigating officer; and there was no testimony from the officers to indicate such. Also, the lineup was conducted within days of the crime. The perpetrator was in the store for 45-50 minutes and spoke with the employee several times. (2) The trial court did not commit plain error by granting the defendant relief under the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act (EIRA) but not excluding evidence of a pretrial identification. The trial court found that an EIRA violation occurred because one of the officers administering the procedure was involved in the investigation. The court concluded: “We are not persuaded that the trial court committed plain error by granting Defendant all other available remedies under EIRA, rather than excluding the evidence.”

Pretrial photographic line-ups were not suggestive, on the facts.

Two men attempted to rob the victim in a McDonald’s parking lot. One of the suspects fired a gun, and both suspects fled. The victim ran to a nearby parking lot, where he found a law enforcement officer. The victim told the officer what had occurred and described the suspects. Two suspects matching the description were located nearby a few minutes later. When officers approached, the defendant ran. He was apprehended a few minutes later. The victim was taken to the location where the defendant was apprehended, and the victim identified the defendant as the person with a gun who had tried to rob him earlier. The identification was recorded on one of the officer’s body cameras.

The defendant was indicted for attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon. He moved to suppress the victim’s show-up identification. The trial court denied the motion, and the defendant was convicted at trial. The defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress evidence of the show-up identification and when it failed to instruct the jury about purported noncompliance with the North Carolina Eyewitness Identification Reform Act (“the Act”).

(1) G.S. 15A-284.52(c1) of the Act provides that

  • A show-up may only be conducted when a suspect matching the description of the perpetrator is located in close proximity in time and place to the crime, or there is reasonable belief that the perpetrator has changed his or her appearance in close time to the crime, and only if there are circumstances that require the immediate display of a suspect to an eyewitness;
  • A show-up may only be performed using a live suspect; and
  • Investigators must photograph a suspect at the time and place of the show-up to preserve a record of the suspect’s appearance at the time of the show-up.

The Court of Appeals determined that the trial court made findings that supported each of these requirements. The defendant, who matched the victim’s description, was detained less than a half-mile from the site of the attempted robbery. He was suspected of a violent crime that involved the discharge of a firearm and he fled when officers first attempted to detain him. These circumstances required an immediate display of the defendant. An armed suspect who is not detained poses an imminent threat to the public. And had the victim determined that the defendant was not the perpetrator, officers could have released the defendant and continued their search. Finally, the show-up involved a live suspect and was recorded on camera.

The Court of Appeals rejected the defendant’s argument that the Act requires law enforcement officers to obtain a confidence statement and information related to the victim’s vision. G.S. 15A-284.52(c2) requires the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission to develop a policy regarding standard procedures for show-ups. The policy must address “[c]onfidence statements by the eyewitness, including information related to the eyewitness’ vision, the circumstances of the events witnessed, and communications with other eyewitnesses, if any.” The court reasoned that because G.S. 15A-284.52 does not place additional statutory requirements on law enforcement, but instead requires the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission to develop nonbinding guidelines, only G.S. 15A-284.52(c1) sets forth the requirements for show-up identification compliance.

The court further determined that the show-up did not violate the defendant’s due process rights as it was not impermissibly suggestive and did not create a substantial likelihood of misidentification.

(2) G.S. 15A-284.52(d)(3) provides that when evidence of compliance or noncompliance with “this section” of the Act is presented at trial, the jury must be instructed that it may consider credible evidence of compliance or noncompliance to determine the reliability of eyewitness identifications. The defendant argued on appeal that he was entitled to a jury instruction on noncompliance with the Act because the officer did not obtain an eyewitness confidence level under G.S. 15A-284.52(c2)(2). The Court of Appeals rejected that argument on the basis that G.S. 15A-284.52(c2) concerns policies and guidelines established by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission, not the requirements for show-up identifications. Because the officers complied with the show-up procedures in G.S. 15A-284.52(c1), the defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction on noncompliance with the Act.

In this case involving armed robbery and other convictions, the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress evidence which asserted that the pre-trial identification was impermissibly suggestive. Three victims were robbed in a mall parking lot by three assailants. The defendant was apprehended and identified by the victims as one of the perpetrators. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress the show-up identification made by the victims, was convicted and appealed. On appeal the defendant argued that the show-up identification should been suppressed because it was impermissibly suggestive. Before the robbery occurred the defendant and the other perpetrators followed the victims around the mall and the parking lot; the defendant was 2 feet from one of the victims at the time of the robbery; the show-up occurred approximately 15 minutes after the crime; before the show-up the victims gave a physical description of the defendant to law enforcement; all three victims were seated together in the back of a police car during the show-up; the defendant and the other perpetrators were handcuffed during the show-up and standing in a well-lit area of the parking lot in front of the police car; the defendant matched the description given by the victims; upon approaching the area where the defendant and the others were detained, all three victims spontaneously shouted, “That’s him, that’s him”; and all of the victims identified the defendant in court. Although these procedures “were not perfect,” there was not a substantial likelihood of misidentification in light of the reliability factors surrounding the crime and the identification. “Even though the show-up may have been suggestive, it did not rise to the level of irreparable misidentification.”

The trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress a victim’s identification of the defendant as the perpetrator. The defendant was charged with armed robbery of a Game Stop store and threatening use of a firearm against a store employee, Cintron, during the robbery. Although Cintron failed to identify an alleged perpetrator in a photographic lineup shown to him two days after the robbery, he later identified the defendant when shown a single still-frame photograph obtained from the store’s surveillance video. Cintron then identified the defendant as the perpetrator in the same photographic lineup shown to him two days after the robbery and again in four close-up, post-arrest photographs of the defendant showing his neck tattoos. The defendant unsuccessfully moved to suppress Cintron’s in-court and out-of-court identifications.

          On appeal the defendant argued that the State conducted an impermissibly suggestive pretrial identification procedure that created a substantial likelihood of misidentification. The court rejected that argument, finding that the trial court’s challenged findings and conclusions—that the authorities substantially followed statutory and police department policies in each photo lineup and that the substance of any deviation from those policies revolved around the defendant’s neck tattoos—are supported by the evidence. The defendant fit the victim’s initial description of the perpetrator, which emphasized a tattoo of an Asian symbol on the left side of his neck and notable forehead creases. Based on this description, the victim had the ability to identify the defendant both in court and in photographs reflecting a close-up view of the defendant’s tattoos, and he specifically testified to his ability to recognize the defendant as the perpetrator independent of any lineup or photo he had been shown. Thus, the trial court’s ultimate conclusion—that the procedures did not give rise to a substantial likelihood that the defendant was mistakenly identified—is supported by the totality of the circumstances indicating that the identification was sufficiently reliable.

In this felony breaking and entering and larceny case, the trial court did not commit plain error by denying the defendant’s motion to suppress the victim’s show-up identification of the defendant as the person he found in his home on the date in question. Among other things, the court noted that the victim viewed the defendant’s face three separate times during the encounter and that during two of those observations was only 20 feet from the defendant. Additionally, the identification occurred within 15-20 minutes of the victim finding the suspect in his home. Although the show-up identification was suggestive, it was not so impermissibly suggestive as to cause irreparable mistaken identification and violate defendant’s constitutional right to due process.

An out-of-court show-up identification was not impermissibly suggestive. Police told a victim that they “believed they had found the suspect.” The victim was then taken to where the defendant was standing in a front yard with officers. With a light shone on the defendant, the victim identified the defendant as the perpetrator from the patrol car. For reasons discussed in the opinion, the court held that the show-up possessed sufficient aspects of reliability to outweigh its suggestiveness.

A pretrial show-up was not impermissibly suggestive. The robbery victim had ample opportunity to view the defendant at the time of the crime and there was no suggestion that the description of the perpetrator given by the victim to the police officer was inaccurate. During the show-up, the victim stood in close proximity to the defendant, and the defendant was illuminated by spotlights and a flashlight. The victim stated that he was “sure” that the defendant was the perpetrator, both at the scene and in court. Also, the time interval between the crime and the show-up was relatively short.

(1) The Eyewitness Identification Reform Act, G.S. 15A-284.52, does not apply to show ups. (2) Although a show up procedure was unduly suggestive, there was no substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification and thus the trial judge did not err by denying a motion to suppress the victim’s pretrial identification. The show up was unduly suggestive when an officer told the witness beforehand that "they think they found the guy," and at the show up, the defendant was detained and several officers were present. However, there was no substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification when, although only having viewed the suspects for a short time, the witness looked "dead at" the suspect and made eye contact with him from a table's length away during daylight hours with nothing obstructing her, the show up occurred fifteen minutes later, and the witness was "positive" about her identification of the three suspects, as "she could not forget their faces."

The Due Process Clause does not require a preliminary judicial inquiry into the reliability of an eyewitness identification when the identification was not procured under unnecessarily suggestive circumstances arranged by law enforcement. New Hampshire police received a call reporting that an African-American male was trying to break into cars parked in the lot of the caller’s apartment building. When an officer responding to the call asked eyewitness Nubia Blandon to describe the man, Blandon, who was standing in her apartment building just outside the open door to her apartment, pointed to her kitchen window and said the man she saw breaking into the car was standing in the parking lot, next to a police officer. Petitioner Perry, who was that person, was arrested. About a month later, when the police showed Blandon a photographic array that included a picture of Perry and asked her to point out the man who had broken into the car, she was unable to identify Perry. At trial Perry unsuccessfully moved to suppress Blandon’s identification on the ground that admitting it would violate due process. The Court began by noting that an identification infected by improper police influence is not automatically excluded. Instead, the Court explained, the trial judge must screen the evidence for reliability pretrial. If there is a very substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification, the judge must disallow presentation of the evidence at trial. But, it continued, if the indicia of reliability are strong enough to outweigh the corrupting effect of the police-arranged suggestive circumstances, the identification evidence ordinarily will be admitted, and the jury will ultimately determine its worth. In this case, Perry asked the Court to extend pretrial screening for reliability to cases in which the suggestive circumstances were not arranged by law enforcement officers because of the grave risk that mistaken identification will yield a miscarriage of justice. The Court declined to do so, holding: “When no improper law enforcement activity is involved . . . it suffices to test reliability through the rights and opportunities generally designed for that purpose, notably, the presence of counsel at postindictment lineups, vigorous cross-examination, protective rules of evidence, and jury instructions on both the fallibility of eyewitness identification and the requirement that guilt be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” Justice Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Sotomayor dissented.

Two men were angry about being cheated in a drug deal. They approached a house and shot two other men – one fatally – who they thought were involved in the rip-off. The victims were on the front porch at the time of the shooting. Two women who were also on the porch viewed photo lineups in an attempt to identify the perpetrators. They both identified one suspect. Neither identified the defendant as the other man, though one said that his picture “looked like” the suspect. The defendant was charged with murder and other offenses. Several years later, a legal assistant with the district attorney’s office asked the women to come to the office for trial preparation. The legal assistant showed the women part of the defendant’s video-recorded interview with police as well as updated pictures of the defendant. One of the women looked out the window and saw the defendant, in a jail uniform and handcuffs, being led into the courthouse for a hearing. She immediately stated that he was one of the killers. The other woman came to the window and also saw the defendant. Both women later identified the defendant at trial as one of the perpetrators. The defendant argued that the identification was tainted by what he contended was a suggestive identification procedure conducted by the legal assistant. The trial judge found that the procedure was not unduly suggestive, and that in any event, the women’s in court testimony was based on their independent recollection of the events in question. The defendant was convicted and appealed. The court of appeals found the procedure to be impermissibly suggestive and reversed the defendant’s conviction. The State appealed, and the supreme court ruled: (1) The trial preparation session was an “impermissibly suggestive” identification procedure. Given that the women had not previously identified the defendant as a participant in the crime, the legal assistant’s “actions in showing [the women] the video of [the defendant’s] interview and recent photographs of [the defendant and the co-defendant] are exactly the kind of highly suggestive procedures that have been widely condemned as inherently suggestive” and amounted to improper “witness coaching.” (2) However, the procedure did not give “rise to a substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification . . . because the trial court’s findings of fact support the legal conclusion that [one of the women’s] in-court identification of defendant was of independent origin and sufficiently reliable.” Among other factors, the court highlighted the woman’s proximity to the perpetrators, her opportunity to observe them, and the fact that when she saw a picture of the defendant online shortly after the crime – wearing his hair in a style different from his lineup photo and apparently more similar to his appearance at the time of the crime – she identified him as a perpetrator. (3) Because one of the women made a valid in-court identification, any error in admitting the other woman’s identification of the defendant was harmless. Three Justices, dissenting in part, would not have addressed whether the procedure at issue was unduly suggestive and would have decided the case based only on the “independent origin” holding.

In this murder and attempted murder case, an officer responded to the shooting at the victim’s apartment. Upon arrival, he saw a man running with a towel in his hands and gave chase. The officer could not catch the man and instead found one of the victims, the defendant’s ex-girlfriend. She was able to describe the assailant and provide his name. The officer then located a DMV picture of the suspect and identified the defendant as the person he saw running earlier. The defendant sought to suppress this identification as a violation of the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act (“EIRA”). Specifically, the defendant argued the officer failed to conduct the “show-up” in accord with EIRA procedure. The trial court denied the motion and the court of appeals affirmed. The EIRA applies to “live lineups, photo lineups, and show-ups.” “Here, the inadvertent out-of-court identification of defendant, based on a single DMV photo accessed by an investigating officer, was neither a lineup or a show-up under the EIRA, and thus not subject to those statutory protections.” Even if the identification was suggestive, there was no substantial likelihood of misidentification under the facts of the case, and the denial of the motion was affirmed.

The trial court did not err by admitting in-court identification of the defendant by two officers. The defendant argued that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the officers’ in-court identifications because the procedure they used to identify him violated the Eyewitness Identification Reform Act (EIRA) and his constitutional due process rights. After the officers observed the defendant at the scene, they returned to the police station and put the suspect’s name into their computer database. When a picture appeared, both officers identified the defendant as the perpetrator. The officers then pulled up another photograph of the defendant and confirmed that he was the perpetrator. This occurred within 10-15 minutes of the incident in question. The court concluded that the identification based on two photographs was not a “lineup” and therefore was not subject to the EIRA. Next, the court held that even assuming the procedure was impermissibly suggestive, the officers’ in-court identification was admissible because it was based on an independent source, their clear, close and unobstructed view of the suspect at the scene.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that a photographic lineup was impermissibly suggestive because the defendant’s photo was smaller than others in the array.

The trial court’s admission of photo identification evidence did not violate the defendant’s right to due process. The day after a break-in at her house, one of the victims, a high school student, became upset in school. Her mother was called to school and brought along the student’s sister, who was also present when the crime occurred. After the student told the Principal about the incident, the Principal took the student, her sister and her mother into his office and showed the sisters photographs from the N.C. Sex Offender Registry website to identify the perpetrator. Both youths identified the perpetrator from one of the pictures. The mother then contacted the police and the defendant was eventually arrested. At trial, both youths identified the defendant as the perpetrator in court. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the Principal acted as an agent of the State when he showed the youths the photos, finding that his actions “were more akin to that of a parent, friend, or other concerned citizen offering to help the victim of a crime.” Because the Principal was not a state actor when he presented the photographs, the defendant’s due process rights were not implicated in the identification. Even if the Principal was a state actor and the procedure used was unnecessarily suggestive, the procedure did not give rise to a substantial likelihood of irreparable misidentification given the circumstances of the identification. Finally, because the photo identification evidence was properly admitted, the trial court also properly admitted the in-court identifications of defendant.

(1) The trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to suppress asserting that an eyewitness’s pretrial identification was unduly suggestive. The eyewitness had the opportunity to view the defendant at close range for an extended period of time and was focused on and paying attention to the defendant for at least fifteen minutes. Additionally, the eyewitness described the defendant by name as someone he knew and had interacted with previously, and immediately identified a photograph of him, indicating high levels of accuracy and confidence in the eyewitness’s description and identification. Although, the eyewitness stated that he recognized but could not name all of the suspects on the night of the attack, he named the defendant and identified a photograph of him the next day. (2) No violation of G.S. 15A-284.52 (eyewitness identification procedures) occurred. The eyewitness told the detective that he had seen one of the perpetrators in a weekly newspaper called the The Slammer, but did not recall his name. The detective allowed the eyewitness to look through pages of photographs in The Slammer, and from this process the eyewitness identified one of the defendants. The detective did not know who the eyewitness was looking for and thus could not have pressured him to select one of the defendants, nor does any evidence suggest that this occurred.

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