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., 07/20/2024
E.g., 07/20/2024

In this Onslow County case, defendant appealed his convictions for statutory rape, incest, and indecent liberties with a child. Defendant argued (1) a missing page of the transcript justified a new trial; (2) error in denying his motion to dismiss the incest charge; (3) error in denying his motion to suppress; and (4) a clerical error in the judgment required remand. The Court of Appeals did not find justification for a new trial or error with denial of the motion to suppress, but did vacate defendant’s incest conviction and remanded the case for correction of the clerical error on the judgment and resentencing. 

In 2018, the 15-year-old victim of defendant’s sexual advances moved in with defendant and his wife in Jacksonville. The victim is the daughter of defendant’s wife’s sister, making her defendant’s niece by affinity, not consanguinity. During several encounters, defendant made sexual advances and eventually engaged in sexual contact with the victim, and she reported this conduct to her father, who called the police. Prior to his trial, defendant moved to suppress statements made to after his arrest by the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, but the trial court denied the motion. 

Reviewing (1), the Court of Appeals explained that a missing page from a trial transcript does not automatically justify a new trial. Instead, the applicable consideration is whether the lack of a verbatim transcript deprives the defendant of a meaningful right to appeal, and the court looked to the three-part test articulated in State v. Yates, 262 N.C. App. 139 (2018). Because defendant and his counsel “made sufficient reconstruction efforts that produced an adequate alternative to a verbatim transcript, he was not deprived of meaningful appellate review.” Slip Op. at 9.

Turning to (2), the incest charge, the court agreed with defendant that “the term ‘niece’ in [G.S.] 14-178 does not include a niece-in-law for the purposes of incest.” Id. The opinion explored the history of the incest statute and common law in North Carolina in extensive detail, coming to the conclusion that a niece-in-law does not represent a niece for purposes of criminal incest. As an illustration of the “absurd results” under North Carolina law if a niece by affinity were included, “an individual could marry their niece-in-law . . . [but] that individual would be guilty of incest if the marriage were consummated.” Id. at 20. As a result, the court vacated defendant’s incest conviction.

Considering (3), inculpatory statements made by defendant after his arrest, the court considered defendant’s arguments that the findings of fact were incomplete, and that the evidence did not support that he made the statements voluntarily. The court disagreed on both points, explaining that findings of fact “need not summarize all the evidence presented at voir dire,” as long as “the findings are supported by substantial and uncontradicted evidence, as they are here.” Id. at 26. As for the voluntariness of the statements, the court detailed several different points where defendant received Miranda warnings, signed an advisement of rights form, and even made a joke about being familiar with the rights through his work as an active duty marine with a law enforcement role. 

For defendant’s final issue (4), the clerical error, the court agreed with defendant that the trial court had orally dismissed the sexual activity by a substitute parent charge prior to sentencing. Although the jury did convict defendant of this charge, the transcript clearly indicated the trial court dismissed the charge before consolidating the other charges for sentencing. Looking to the rule articulated in State v. Smith, 188 N.C. App. 842 (2008), the court found that remand for correction was the appropriate remedy for the clerical error in the judgment to ensure the record reflected the truth of the proceeding. 

This opinion arose from a Wake County order imposing satellite-based monitoring (“SBM”) on defendant for first-degree rape of a child, incest, and two counts of first-degree sexual offense. This matter has a complicated procedural history, resulting in four Court of Appeals opinions. Pages 3-5 of the slip opinion describe the relevant history. The court held that the indictments for defendant’s offenses were valid and issued a writ to consider the 2020 SBM orders by the trial court, but did not reach a majority opinion on whether the orders violated the Fourth Amendment, leaving the 2020 SBM orders undisturbed.

Judge Jackson wrote the opinion of the court, taking up defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari to review the orders imposing SBM; Judge Murphy concurred in the issuance of certiorari, while Judge Tyson disagreed with issuing the writ. The opinion explored three questions regarding the SBM orders: (1) Were the indictments valid when they used initials and date of birth to identify the victim? (2) Were the 2020 SBM orders properly before the court? (3) Did the SBM orders violate the Fourth Amendment?

The panel was unanimous in holding that (1) the indictments were valid even though they used initials and date of birth to identify the victim. Judge Jackson explained that short-form indictments using initials were acceptable in rape and statutory sexual offense cases under the court’s holding in State v. McKoy, 196 N.C. App. 652 (2009) and G.S. §§ 15-144.1 and -144.2, and the court applied this reasoning to the incest allegation as well. Slip Op. at 12-13.

Considering (2), the panel looked to the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Ricks, 378 N.C. 737 (2021). The Ricks opinion held that the Court of Appeals abused its discretion in reviewing an SBM order upon issuance of a writ of certiorari where the defendant’s petition did not show merit. Slip Op. at 7. Judge Jackson and Judge Murphy agreed that Ricks was distinguishable from the instant case and that the court could properly grant the writ, although they varied on their reasoning for doing so. Judge Tyson did not support granting the writ.

Reaching (3), each member of the panel split on the question of the 2020 SBM orders and the Fourth Amendment. Judge Jackson wrote that the orders did not violate the Fourth Amendment following recent precedent in State v. Carter, 2022-NCCOA-262, and State v. Anthony, 2022-NCCOA-414, arguing that the court could not overrule itself with this relevant precedent. Slip Op. at 32-33. Judge Tyson argued that the orders were not properly before the court, as noted in issue (2), and the court lacked jurisdiction to consider them under Ricks. Id. at 45-46. Judge Murphy wrote that the 2020 SBM orders should be vacated, leaving 2012 SBM orders in place, as the trial court lacked appropriate jurisdiction under State v. Clayton, 206 N.C. App. 300 (2010). Slip Op. at 69-70.

The trial court did not err by sentencing the defendant for two crimes—statutory rape and incest—arising out of the same transaction. The two offenses are not the same under the Blockburger test; each has an element not included in the other.

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