Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium


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.


Navigate using the table of contents to the left or by using the search box below. Use quotations for an exact phrase search. A search for multiple terms without quotations functions as an “or” search. Not sure where to start? The 5 minute video tutorial offers a guided tour of main features – Launch Tutorial (opens in new tab).

E.g., 06/26/2024
E.g., 06/26/2024

In this Forsyth County case, defendant appealed her conviction for assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury, arguing error in (1) instructing the jury that the knife was a deadly weapon per se, and (2) declining to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

At a Father’s Day cookout in 2021, defendant and the victim, a woman who was serving macaroni and cheese, began to argue. Over the course of the day, the two had several confrontations about whether defendant was entitled to be served any of the macaroni and cheese. The confrontations led to a fight, where defendant slashed the victim several times with a small pocketknife, causing injuries to her face, arms, and torso. At trial, defense counsel requested that the jury be instructed on lesser included offenses and that the knife did not constitute a per se deadly weapon, but the trial court overruled this request and did not instruct on lesser included offenses. 

Reviewing (1), the Court of Appeals noted that the knife in question was not admitted into evidence at trial. Defendant argued that without the knife in evidence and without testimony of its character and appearance, it was improper to instruct the jury that it was a deadly weapon. The court disagreed, explaining “although the State bears the burden of proving, inter alia, the use of a deadly weapon, the State is not required to producethe alleged weapon to obtain a conviction for an assault involving a deadly weapon.” Slip Op. at 12. The court also disagreed with defendant about the evidence of the knife, as body-cam footage of defendant describing the knife was in the record, as well as evidence of the injuries sustained by the victim. After determining the trial court properly instructed the jury that the knife was a deadly weapon, the court concluded that (2) was also properly decided, explaining that the State’s evidence supported every element of the crime charged and “there was no conflicting evidence relating to any element of the charged crime.” Id. at 15 (cleaned up). 

A defendant may not be convicted of assault with a deadly weapon under G.S. 14-32 and assault on a child under G.S. 14-33 based on the same incident. G.S. 14-33 states that a defendant shall be guilty of assault on a child unless another statue provides harsher punishment for the same conduct. Here, because the defendant was convicted and sentenced for assault with a deadly weapon for his assault on the same victim and since this conviction carries a harsher punishment than assault on a child, the conviction and sentence for assault on a child must be vacated.

Given the manner of its use, there was sufficient evidence that a kitchen table chair was a deadly weapon.

There was sufficient evidence that a lawn chair was a deadly weapon for purposes of assault. The victim was knocked unconscious and suffered multiple facial fractures and injuries which required surgery; after surgery his jaw was wired shut for weeks and he missed 2-3 weeks of work; and at trial the victim testified that he still suffered from vision problems. Because the State presented evidence that the defendant assaulted the victim with the lawn chair and not his fists alone, it was not required to present evidence as to the parties’ size or condition.

Based on the manner of its use, a car was a deadly weapon as a matter of law. The court based its conclusion on the vehicle’s high rate of speed and the fact that the officer had to engage in affirmative action to avoid harm.

The trial court did not err by instructing the jury that a pickaxe was a deadly weapon. The pickaxe handle was about 3 feet long, and the pickaxe weighed 9-10 pounds. The defendant swung the pickaxe approximately 8 times, causing cuts to the victim’s head that required 53 staples. She also slashed his middle finger, leaving it hanging only by a piece of skin.

The trial judge committed prejudicial error with respect to its instruction on the intent element for the charges of assault with a deadly weapon, in a case in which a vehicle was the deadly weapon. In order for a jury to convict of assault with a deadly weapon, it must find that it was the defendant's actual intent to strike the victim with his vehicle, or that the defendant acted with culpable negligence from which intent may be implied. Because the trial court’s instruction erroneously could have allowed the jury to convict without a finding of either actual intent or culpable negligence, reversible error occurred.

The evidence was sufficient to establish that the knife used in the assault was a deadly weapon where a witness testified that the knife was three inches long and the victim sustained significant injuries.

The vehicle at issue was not a deadly weapon as a matter of law where there was no evidence that the vehicle was moving at a high speed and given the victim’s lack of significant injury and the lack of damage to the other vehicle involved, a jury could conclude that the vehicle was not aimed directly at the victim and that the impact was more of a glancing contact.

There was sufficient evidence that the defendant’s hands were a deadly weapon as to one victim when the evidence showed that the defendant was a big, stocky man, probably larger than the victim, who was a female and a likely user of crack cocaine, and the victim sustained serious injuries. There was sufficient evidence that the defendant’s hands were a deadly weapon as to another victim when the evidence showed that the victim was a small-framed, pregnant woman with a cocaine addiction and the defendant used his hands to throw her onto the concrete floor, cracking her head open, and put his hands around her neck.

The defendant and an accomplice, both female, assaulted a male with fists and tree limbs. The two females individually, but not collectively, weighed less than the male victim, and both were shorter than him. They both were convicted of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. The court ruled that the evidence was sufficient to prove that the fists and the tree limbs were deadly weapons.

The defendant and his accomplice discussed intentionally forcing drivers off the road in order to rob them and one of them then deliberately threw a very large rock or concrete chunk through the driver’s side windshield of the victim’s automobile as it was approaching at approximately 55 or 60 miles per hour. The size of the rock and the manner in which it was used establishes that it was a deadly weapon.

Show Table of Contents