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.


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

In this Edgecombe County case, defendant appealed his convictions for statutory sex offense with a child under 15, sex offense by a parent, and statutory sex offense with a child by an adult, arguing (1) plain error by failing to exclude evidence of defendant’s prior conduct; (2) an impermissible opinion in the trial court’s qualification of an expert witness; (3) plain error by admitting the expert’s testimony; and (4) error by precluding defense counsel from arguing the possible penalty defendant faced if convicted. The Court of Appeals found no plain error and no error. 

Defendant came to trial in September of 2019 for sexual offenses committed against his step-daughter. In addition to the testimony of the victim, the victim’s cousin testified about two incidents where defendant pulled her swimsuit down and commented on her tan line. The State offered the testimony of an expert in interpretations of interviews of children who are victims of sexual abuse, and defense counsel stipulated “to her being an expert in forensic interviewing.” Slip Op. at 4. The expert testified generally about grooming practices and triggering events for disclosure, but did not testify about the victim or offer opinions on the current case. During closing argument, the State objected to defense counsel’s statement that a guilty verdict would be a life sentence for defendant, and the trial court sustained the objection. Defendant was subsequently convicted and appealed.  

Taking up (1), the Court of Appeals explained that because defendant did not object at trial, the standard of review was plain error. The court noted the extensive evidence of defendant’s guilt, and determined that even if admitting the evidence was error, it did not reach plain error.  

The court also found no error in (2), noting that although the stipulation by the defense did not match the qualifications from the State when tendering the expert, the trial court made a normal ruling admitting the expert. Moving to (3), the court applied Rule of Evidence 702(a) to confirm that an expert is permitted to testify generally if it is appropriate “to give the jury necessary information to understand the testimony and evaluate it.” Slip Op. at 12. Here, the court found relevant testimony from the expert for concepts like grooming that fit the facts of the present case.  

Finally, in (4), the court noted that defense counsel was permitted to read the relevant provisions of the statute to the jury, but could not do so in a way that asked the jury to consider punishment as part of its deliberations. Here, “[r]ather than merely informing the jury of the statutory penalties associated with the charges, defense counsel implied Defendant should not be convicted because the punishment would be severe . . . improperly comment[ing] upon the statutory punishment to sway the jury’s sympathies in its substantive deliberations.” Id. at 14. 

The trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss 33 counts of statutory rape, two counts of statutory sex offense, and 17 counts of indecent liberties as to victim F.H. At trial, the victim testified to sexual contact during her relationship with the defendant; she stated that she and the defendant had vaginal intercourse at least once a week beginning the day they met, and that she performed oral sex before, during, and after each occurrence of sexual intercourse. Two additional witnesses testified to observing the defendant and the victim have sexual intercourse during this time, one of whom also testified to observing oral sex. The defendant asserted that because the State failed to provide a specific number of times that the two had sexual intercourse and oral sex and how many times the defendant touched the victim in an immoral way, the total number of counts is not supported and his motion to dismiss should have been granted. The court disagreed, concluding that although the victim did not explicitly state the specific number of times that the two had sexual relations, a reasonable jury could find the evidence sufficient to support an inference for the number of counts at issue. Specifically, the victim testified that she and the defendant had sexual intercourse at least once a week for span of seventy-one weeks.

State v. Sweat, 216 N.C. App. 321 (Oct. 18, 2011) aff’d in part, rev’d in part, 366 N.C. 79 (Jan 1 2012)

In a case in which there was a dissenting opinion, the court held that the trial court did not err with respect to instructions on two counts because the jury could properly have found either anal intercourse or fellatio and was not required to agree as to which one occurred.

The defendant was properly convicted of two counts of sexual offense when the evidence showed that the victim awoke to find the defendant’s hands in her vagina and in her rectum at the same time.

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