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

In this case involving convictions for first-degree kidnapping and misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon, among other offenses, the State presented sufficient evidence of the offenses and the trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss on that basis.  With regard to the kidnapping conviction, the defendant argued that the State failed to present substantial evidence the defendant’s purpose was to terrorize the victim.  Recounting evidence that the defendant hid in the backseat of the victim’s car holding a knife while he waited for her to get off work, forced her to remain in the car and drive by choking her and threatening her with the knife, and forcefully struck her on the head when she attempted to scream for help, the court rejected this argument and bolstered its position by describing her frantic efforts to escape. 

The court also found sufficient evidence of misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon under both the show of violence theory of assault and the act or attempt to do injury to another theory of assault.  The State’s evidence tended to show that after two men scuffled with the defendant in an attempt to aid the victim, the defendant jumped into the driver’s seat of the victim’s car and attempted to run the men over and nearly did so.  This was sufficient evidence of assault under either theory.

The trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss a first-degree kidnapping charge. There was sufficient evidence that the defendant removed the victim for the purpose of terrorizing her where multiple witnesses heard the defendant threaten to kill her in broad daylight. The defendant assaulted the victim, placed her in headlock, and choked her. Evidence showed that the victim was in a state of intense fright and apprehension; several witnesses heard her yelling for help.

(1) The court rejected the defendant’s argument that kidnapping charges should have been dismissed because there was insufficient evidence that his purpose in confining the victims was to terrorize them. “A defendant intends to terrorize another when the defendant intends to place that person in some high degree of fear, a state of intense fright or apprehension.” (quotation omitted). The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the State had to prove that the kidnapping victims were terrorized; State only needs to prove that the defendant’s intent was to terrorize the victims. The evidence was sufficient for the jury to infer such an intent. That defendant shot victim Nancy’s truck parked outside the house so that everyone could hear it, cut the telephone line to the house at night, shot through the windows multiple times to break into the house, yelled multiple times upon entering the house that he was going to kill Nancy, corralled the occupants of the house into a single bedroom, demanded of those in the bedroom to know where Nancy was, exclaimed that he was going to kill her, and pointed his shotgun at them. (2) Vacating two of the defendant’s second-degree kidnapping convictions on grounds that the plain language of G.S. 14-39(a) does not permit prosecution of a parent for kidnapping, at least when that parent has custodial rights with respect to the children. The court explained:

“[T]here is no kidnapping when a parent or legal custodian consents to the unlawful confinement of his minor child, regardless whether the child himself consents to the confinement. The plain language requires that only one parent -- “a parent” -- consent to the confinement.

The court was careful to note “We do not address the question whether a parent without custodial rights may be held criminally liable for kidnapping.” (footnote 2).

The evidence was sufficient to establish an intent to cause bodily harm or terrorize where the facts showed that after severely beating the victim, the defendants first attempted to stuff him into a garbage can and then threw him into a 10 or 12-foot-deep ditch filled with rocks and water; one defendant had been to the location several times and could have seen the ditch; and the victim could not recall anything after the assault began and was not struggling or moving during this process. This evidence supports a reasonable inference that the defendants intended to cause the victim serious bodily injury if they believed he was unconscious and unable to protect himself as he was thrown into the ditch, landing on rocks and possibly drowning. Alternatively, it supports a reasonable inference that the defendants intended to terrorize the victim if they believed him to be conscious and aware of being stuffed into a garbage can and then flung into a deep, rocky, water-filled ditch.

(1) The evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendant confined and restrained Victims Alvarez and Cortes for the purpose of terrorizing them and doing them serious bodily harm. The evidence was sufficient to establish a purpose of terrorizing Alvarez when the defendant beat and kicked Alvarez repeatedly while wrestling him to the floor; the defendant bound Alvarez’s hands and feet and placed a rag in his mouth; the defendant and an accomplice threatened to kill Alvarez; the defendant pulled Alvarez’s pants down, and the accomplice forced a bottle into his rectum; and Alvarez testified that he thought he was going to die. There was sufficient evidence as to the purpose of doing serious bodily harm to Alvarez given the sexual assault. As to Cortes, the defendant and the accomplice knocked him to the floor, and kicked him in the stomach repeatedly; Cortes was hog-tied so severely that his spine was fractured; he had lacerations to the lips and abrasions on his face, neck, chest, and abdomen; tissue paper was in his mouth; the spine fracture would have paralyzed the lower part of his body; and cause of death was a combination of suffocation and strangulation, with a contributing factor being the fracture of the thoracic spine. (2) The trial court’s instruction clearly and appropriately defined “terrorizing” and “serious bodily harm” as required for kidnapping. The trial court instructed that: “Terrorizing means more than just putting another in fear. It means putting that person in some high degree of fear, a state of intense fright or apprehension, or doing serious bodily injury to that person. Serious bodily injury may be defined as such physical injury as causes great pain or suffering.”

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