Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

About

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.

Instructions

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., 09/17/2021
E.g., 09/17/2021
State v. Gentle, ___ N.C. App. ___, 817 S.E.2d 833 (July 3, 2018) aff’d per curiam, ___ N.C. ___, 822 S.E.2d 616 (Feb 1 2019)

In this rape and sex offense case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court committed plain error by instructing the jury that it could find that the victim suffered serious personal injury in the form of mental injury; even if error occurred, it had no probable impact on the verdict. The defendant argued that the jury instruction was improper because the State presented no evidence of mental injury. The court noted that for several decades the appellate courts had held that it was per se error for the trial court to instruct the jury on a theory that was not supported by the evidence. However, in State v. Boyd, 366 N.C. 548 (2013) (per curiam), the Supreme Court shifted away from the per se rule. Now, a reviewing court must determine whether such an instruction constituted reversible error, without being required to assume that the jury relied on the inappropriate theory. Under North Carolina law, evidence of bodily or mental injuries can constitute serious personal injury for the purposes of forcible rape and forcible sex offense. Here, there was substantial evidence that the defendant inflicted bodily harm on the victim, who was seven months pregnant. The victim struggled to protect her stomach while the defendant forcibly dragged her down 33 concrete stairs and into nearby woods. She sustained extensive bruises and abrasions to most of the left side of her body, including her leg, abdomen, back, side, arm, and shoulder. Although some of the wounds were superficial, others were more significant abrasions. A nurse who testified at trial compared her injuries to “road rash” that a person might suffer after falling off a motorcycle traveling at 55 mph. The victim testified that her injuries were painful and she still bore extensive scars at trial. The court concluded that even assuming arguendo that there was no evidence to support the trial court’s instruction on mental injury, the defendant failed to meet his burden of showing that the alleged error had any probable impact on the jury’s verdict.

There was sufficient evidence to support a conviction for first-degree sex offense. The defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to infliction of serious personal injury on the victim. The defendant, a 43-year-old male approximately 5’10” tall with a medium build, physically and sexually assaulted a 22-year-old female, approximately 5’1” tall and weighing only 96 pounds. The defendant unexpectedly grabbed the victim and threw her down a steep, rocky embankment. He punched her face and head numerous times, and straddled her, pinned her down and strangled her. Although he initially ceased his assault when she stopped resisting, he resumed it when she resumed screaming, punching her face and head before forcing her to perform oral sex on him. The victim was diagnosed with a head injury and experienced pain throughout her body for days. She experienced two black eyes, body bruises, and hoarseness in her voice; and she had difficulty concentrating. At trial the victim testified that she continued to have trouble trusting people, opening up to others, and maintaining friendships. Evidence showed that the victim had difficulty concentrating and remembering and suffered from short-term memory loss from the attack, all of which caused her problems at work. This constitutes sufficient evidence of serious personal injury.

 

Where there was evidence to support a finding that the victim suffered serious personal injury, the trial court did not err in instructing the jury on first-degree sexual offense. The trial court’s instructions were proper where an officer saw blood on the victim’s lip and photographs showed that she suffered bruises on her ribs, arms and face. Additionally the victim was in pain for 4 or 5 days after the incident and due to her concerns regarding lack of safety the victim, terminated her lease and moved back in with her family. At the time of trial, roughly one year later, the victim still felt unsafe being alone. This was ample evidence of physical injury and lingering mental injury.

Show Table of Contents