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. Cannon, 370 N.C. 487 (Mar. 2, 2018)

The court per curiam affirmed a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 804 S.E.2d 199 (2017). Over a dissent, the court of appeals had held that the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss a charge of aiding and abetting larceny. The charges arose out of the defendant’s involvement with store thefts. A Walmart loss prevention officer observed Amanda Eversole try to leave the store without paying for several clothing items. After apprehending Eversole, the loss prevention officer reviewed surveillance tapes and discovered that she had been in the store with William Black, who had taken a number of items from store shelves without paying. After law enforcement was contacted, the loss prevention officer went to the parking lot and saw Black with the officers. Black was in the rear passenger seat of an SUV, which was filled with goods from the Walmart. A law enforcement officer testified that when he approached Black’s vehicle the defendant asked what the officers were doing. An officer asked the defendant how he knew Black and the defendant replied that he had only just met “them” and had been paid $50 to drive “him” to the Walmart. The defendant also confirmed that he owned the vehicle. Citing this and other evidence, the court of appeals held that the trial court did not err by denying the motion to dismiss.

In its per curiam opinion, the supreme court “specifically disavowed” the taking of judicial notice by the court of appeals of the prevalence of Wal-Mart stores in Gastonia and in the area between Gastonia and Denver, as well as of the “ubiquitous nature of Wal-Mart stores.”

State v. Dick, 370 N.C. 305 (Dec. 8, 2017)

The court reversed a unanimous, unpublished decision of the Court of Appeals in this first-degree sexual offense case, holding that the trial court did not err by giving a disjunctive jury instruction. One of the factors that can elevate a second-degree sexual offense to a first-degree sexual offense is that the defendant was aided and abetted by one or more other persons; another is that the defendant used or displayed a dangerous or deadly weapon. Here, the trial court gave a disjunctive instruction, informing the jury that it could convict the defendant of the first-degree offense if it found that he was aided and abetted by another or that he used or displayed a dangerous or deadly weapon. Where, as here, the trial court instructs the jury disjunctively as to alternative acts which establish an element of the offense, the requirement of unanimity is satisfied. However, when a disjunctive instruction is used, the evidence must be sufficient under both theories. In this case it was undisputed that the evidence was sufficient under the dangerous or deadly weapon prong. The defendant contested the sufficiency of the evidence under the aiding and abetting prong. The court found the evidence sufficient, holding that the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that actual or constructive presence is required for aiding and abetting. As the Court stated in State v. Bond, 345 N.C. 1 (1996), actual or constructive presence is no longer required to prove aiding and abetting. Applying that law, the court held that although the defendant’s accomplices left the room before the defendant committed the sexual act, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the others aided and abetted him. Among other things, two of the accomplices taped the hands of the residents who were present; three of them worked together to separate the sexual assault victim from the rest of the group; one of the men grabbed her and ordered her into a bedroom when she tried to sit in the bathroom; and in the bedroom the defendant and an accomplice groped and fondled the victim and removed her clothes. Most of these acts were done by the defendant and others. The act of taping her mouth shut, taping her hands behind her back, moving her into the bedroom, removing her clothing and inappropriately touching her equate to encouragement, instigation and aid all of which “readily meet the standards of . . . aiding and abetting.” The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence was insufficient because he was the only person in the room when the sex act occurred.

In this child sexual assault case, the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss five statutory sexual offense charges based on a theory of aiding and abetting. The State’s theory was that the defendant encouraged the victim’s mother to engage in sexual activity with the victim, and that the victim’s mother did this to “bait” the defendant into a relationship with her. On appeal the defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient to show that he encouraged or instructed the victim’s mother to perform cunnilingus or digitally penetrate the victim, or that any statement by him caused the victim’s mother to perform the sexual acts. The court disagreed. The State’s evidence included Facebook conversations between the victim’s mother and the defendant. The defendant argued that these messages were fantasies and that even if taken at face value, were devoid of any instruction or encouragement to the victim’s mother to perform sexual acts, specifically cunnilingus or penetration of the victim. The court rejected this argument, concluding that an explicit instruction to engage in sexual activity is not required. Here, the evidence showed that the defendant knew that the victim’s mother wanted a relationship with him and that he believed she was using the victim to try to initiate that relationship. Numerous messages between the defendant and the victim’s mother support a reasonable inference of a plan between them to engage in sexual acts with the victim. The victim’s mother testified that she described sexual acts she performed on the victim to the defendant because he told her he liked to hear about them. The defendant argued that this description of sexual acts after the fact is insufficient to support a finding that he knew of or about these acts prior to their occurrence, a requirement for aiding and abetting. However, the court concluded, the record supports an inference that he encouraged the victim’s mother to perform the acts. Among other things, the defendant specified nude photos that he wanted of the victim and initiated an idea of sexual “play” between the victim’s mother and the victim. After the victim’s mother videotaped her act of performing cunnilingus on the victim and send it to the defendant, the defendant replied that he wanted to engage in that act. After he requested a video of the victim “playing with it,” the victim’s mother made a video of her rubbing the victim’s vagina. This evidence was sufficient to support an inference that the defendant aided and abetted in the victim’s mother’s sexual offenses against the victim.

The evidence was sufficient to support convictions for murder, burglary, and armed robbery on theories of acting in concert and aiding and abetting. The court noted that neither acting in concert nor aiding and abetting require a defendant to expressly vocalize her assent to the criminal conduct; all that is required is an implied mutual understanding or agreement. The State’s evidence showed that the defendant was present for the discussions and aware of the group’s plan to rob the victim Wiggins; she noticed an accomplice’s gun; she was sitting next to another accomplice in a van when he loaded his shotgun; she told the group that she did not want to go up to the house but remained outside the van; she walked toward the house to inform the others that two victims had fled; she told two accomplices “y’all need to come on;” she attempted to start the van when an accomplice returned but could not release the parking brake; and she assisted in unloading the goods stolen from Wiggins’ house into an accomplice’s apartment after the incident.

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