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., 09/26/2021
E.g., 09/26/2021

The defendant, along with two others, went to the home of an individual to whom they paid cash to provide them with controlled substances. The individual neither obtained the illegal drugs nor returned any of the drug purchase money to the defendant. At the home of the individual, the individual was assaulted, accompanied by a demand for the return of the money. While leaving, the defendant fired a shot into the residence. The defendant was arrested and charged with first-degree burglary, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, and discharging a weapon into an occupied property. At trial, the defendant moved to dismiss the charges against him for insufficiency of the evidence, and the trial court denied the motion. The defendant was found guilty on all charges.

The Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and felonious breaking or entering. The Court of Appeals relied on State v. Spratt, 265 N.C. 524 (1965), and State v. Lawrence, 262 N.C. 162 (1964), in concluding that the defendant could not be guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon because the defendant did not have the requisite felonious intent when attempting to take property from the individual, under a bona fide claim of right to the money which had been given on defendant’s behalf. The Court of Appeals also held that the lack of felonious intent negated the defendant’s ability to be convicted of the offense of felonious breaking or entering, and remanded the matter in order for the trial court to enter judgment against defendant for misdemeanor breaking or entering, which does not require felonious intent.

The Supreme Court held that the case precedent on which the Court of Appeals relied did not apply to the facts at hand. The Court concluded that “neither Spratt, nor Lawrence, nor any other case in this state has heretofore authorized a party to legally engage in ‘self-help’ by virtue of the exercise of a bona fide claim of right or title to property which is the subject of an illegal transaction,” and therefore held that there was no error in the defendant’s convictions of the offense of conspiracy to commit armed robbery with a dangerous weapon and the offense of felonious breaking or entering.

The basic facts of this case are as follows: Marvin Price closed his account at the Mountain Credit Union, withdrawing $25,000 in cash. He put $300 to $400 in his wallet and the remainder in an envelope. When he arrived home and got out of his car, he was robbed at gunpoint by Michael Angram, who asked Price, “Where is the $25,000?” Price claimed that he deposited it at another bank, although he had not actually done so, and Michael Angram took the wallet only. In a separate case, Michael Angram was convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon. The defendant in this case is Michael Angram’s brother. He was tried jointly with Ms. Robinson, who worked at the credit union and with whom the defendant had a child, on charges of conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon and aiding and abetting robbery with a dangerous weapon. They were acquitted of conspiracy and found guilty of aiding and abetting. This appeal concerned the defendant only.

The question addressed by the Court of Appeals was whether the State offered sufficient evidence to withstand the defendant’s motion to dismiss, which the trial judge had denied. At trial, the State called Michael Angram, who testified that he did not remember the robbery and did not know why he had been convicted. He did not testify to anything incriminating about the defendant. The State then called a detective to impeach Michael Angram. The detective testified that Michael Angram said that the defendant told him about the $25,000 bank withdrawal and drove him to Price’s home. The Court of Appeals recognized that the detective’s testimony was limited to impeaching Michael Angram’s credibility. The only substantive evidence offered by the State was that Ms. Robinson had a relationship with the defendant, that she was working at the credit union along with three other employees when Price withdrew the $25,000, and that she talked on the phone with the defendant while Price was at the credit union. The State argued that the jury could infer from this evidence that Ms. Robinson told the defendant of the withdrawal and that the defendant then arranged with his brother to rob Price. The Court found that while circumstantial evidence may support conviction of a crime, the State’s argument was speculative. The Court concluded that without the information from the detective’s testimony, which was not admitted for substantive purposes, there was not substantial evidence to withstand the defendant’s motion to dismiss. The Court concluded that the trial judge should have granted the defendant’s motion and reversed the judgment. [Note: The Court found it unnecessary to address the defendant’s other issue on appeal—that the trial judge erred in permitting the detective to testify about Michael Angram’s statements because the State was aware that Michael Angram would not be forthcoming as a witness; the real purpose of the detective’s testimony was to get otherwise inadmissible hearsay before the jury in violation of State v. Hunt, 324 N.C. 343 (1989); and the testimony was unduly prejudicial and not cured by the trial judge’s limiting instruction.]

The evidence showed that the defendant was in a car with two other men that arrived in a church parking lot near the victim’s house at the same time as another car driven by a female. The female then drove to the victim’s home and beeped her car horn. Shortly after the victim came out of his house and  told the woman to leave, the defendant approached the victim with a gun and said, “Don’t f**kin’ move.” After the victim and the defendant exchanged gunfire, the defendant and two other man ran from the victim’s house. The defendant got back into the car in the parking lot. This evidence was sufficient to show that the defendant agreed with at least one other person to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. Defendant’s actions were substantial evidence of his intent to rob the victim, and his arrival at the victim’s home with the weapon was an overt act to carry out his intentions.

State v. Todd, ___ N.C. App. ___, 790 S.E.2d 349 (Aug. 16, 2016) rev’d on other grounds, 369 N.C. 707 (Jun 9 2017)

Over a dissent the court held that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for armed robbery where it consisted of a single partial fingerprint on the exterior of a backpack worn by the victim at the time of the crime and that counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to raise this issue on the defendant’s first appeal. Evidence showed that the assailants “felt around” the victim’s backpack; the backpack however was not stolen. The backpack, a movable item, was worn regularly by the victim for months prio`r to the crime while riding on a public bus. Additionally, the defendant left the backpack unattended on a coat rack while he worked in a local restaurant. Reviewing the facts of the case and distinguishing cases cited by the State, the court concluded that the circumstances of the crime alone provide no evidence which might show that the fingerprint could only have been impressed at the time of the crime. The court went on to reject the State’s argument that other evidence connected the defendant to the crime.

 

In an armed robbery case, the trial court did not commit plain error by failing instruct the jury on a lesser-included offense of “aggravated common law robbery.” The court rejected the defendant’s argument that Apprendi and Blakely created a North Carolina crime of aggravated common law robbery.

(1) The evidence was sufficient to support charges of attempted armed robbery against both defendants. The defendants and a third person, Moore, planned to rob Bobbie Yates of marijuana. However, once they learned there was a poker game going on in the apartment, they retrieved another weapon and returned to the apartment to rob those present. Upon entering the apartment, Moore took money off the kitchen table where several of the people were playing poker, and proceeded to search their pockets for more money. The robbery lasted between two and four minutes, during which time the defendants continuously pointed their weapons at the people present. After Moore took money from those seated around the kitchen table, he—with shotgun in hand—approached Mr. Allen, who was “passed out” or asleep in the living room. One witness saw Moore search Allen’s pockets, but no one saw Moore take money from Allen. This evidence was sufficient to show that the defendants, acting in concert with Moore, had the specific intent to deprive Allen of his personal property by endangering or threatening his life with a dangerous weapon and took overt acts to bring about this result. (2) The court rejected the defendants argument that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on attempted larceny and attempted common law robbery as lesser-included offenses of attempted armed robbery of Allen. The defendant argued that because Allen was “passed out” or asleep, his life was not endangered or threatened. The court found that where, as here, the defendants were convicted of attempted robbery, their argument failed.

Rejecting the defendant’s argument that the State failed to present evidence of an attempted taking, the court held that there was sufficient evidence of attempted robbery. The defendant’s accomplice testified that the defendant planned the robbery with her; the defendant waited in a vehicle until the accomplice went into the residence and sent him a message with the location of each individual inside; the defendant entered the apartment and went directly to the victim’s bedroom; and the defendant proceeded to wield his firearm in a threatening manner towards the victim. The court noted that while there was no testimony that the defendant made a specific demand for money, an actual demand for the victim’s property is not required.

A taking occurred when the defendant grabbed the victim’s cell phone from his pocket and threw it away. The fact that the taking was for a relatively short period of time is insignificant.

The evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendant took the victim’s car when the defendant forced the victim at gunpoint to take the defendant as a passenger in the vehicle. The fact that the victim was “still physically present in the car cannot negate the reasonable inference that defendant’s actions were sufficient to bring the car under his sole control.”

The trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss a charge of attempted armed robbery when there was no evidence that the defendant attempted to take the victim’s personal property. Because the defendant’s conviction for felony breaking or entering was based on an intent to commit armed robbery, the trial court also erred by failing to dismiss that charge.

The defendant in this Davidson County case was tried for common law robbery, habitual misdemeanor assault, and habitual felon. The charges stemmed from an incident between the defendant and his then-girlfriend at her residence, resulting in him assaulting her, damaging her car, and ultimately taking her car after she fled inside the home. The defendant had recently purchased the car for the woman and had been reimbursed by her family for its value, and this was apparently part of the argument. At trial, evidence was also presented that the defendant provided the victim heroin during their relationship. The defendant was convicted on all counts and appealed.

(1) The defendant argued there was insufficient evidence that he used force to take the car or that he took property from the victim’s presence. The court rejected the arguments, observing that “even when there is some attenuation between the use of force and the taking, the action can still amount to a continuous transaction.” Slip op. at 7. Here, the defendant’s acts of assaulting the victim and stealing her car occurred within a 20-minute time period in the victim’s front yard, and evidence showed that the argument and assault were related to the car. Viewed in the light most favorable to the State, the victim fled in response to the defendant’s assault, and the defendant took her car immediately afterwards. This was sufficient to show a continuous transaction linking the defendant’s use of force to the taking of property. The same facts showed that the taking occurred “in the presence of” the victim. In the words of the court:

If the force . . . for the purpose of taking personal property has been used and caused the victim in possession or control to flee the premises and this is followed by the taking of the property in one continuous course of conduct, the taking is from the “presence” of the victim.” Id. at 8 (citation omitted).

The trial court did not therefore err in denying the motion to dismiss the common law robbery charge for insufficient evidence.

(2) The defendant argued that the testimony about him giving the victim heroin during their relationship was unduly prejudicial and violated N.C. Evid. R. 404(b). Assuming without deciding that the admission of this testimony violated Rule 404(b), any error was harmless in light of “overwhelming evidence” of the defendant’s guilt.

(3) The trial court erred by failing to give the defendant notice and an opportunity to be heard on attorney fees. The record contained no colloquy between the trial judge and the defendant on the issue and no other evidence showed that the defendant was given a chance to be heard. Thus, the civil judgement on attorney fees was vacated and the matter remanded for hearing on that issue only. The convictions were otherwise unanimously affirmed.

In a multi-count robbery case, there was sufficient evidence of common law robbery against victim Adrienne. Although Adrienne herself did not testify, the evidence showed that she was a resident of the mobile home where the robbery occurred, that another victim heard her screaming during the intrusion, her face was injured, two witnesses testified that Adrienne had been beaten, and there was evidence that her personal belongings were taken from on, in, or near a nightstand next to her bed.

In an armed robbery case, there was sufficient evidence that the defendant took the victim’s personal property by the use or threatened use of a knife. The victim awoke to find the defendant on top of her holding a knife to her throat. After struggling with him, she pleaded and negotiated with him for almost 90 minutes. The defendant acknowledged that he had already taken money from the victim’s purse. However, when the defendant fled, he took a knife from her kitchen and the victim’s sports bra and the victim never saw her purse again.

The evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendant took money from a store clerk by means of violence or fear. The defendant hid his arm underneath his jacket in a manner suggesting that he had a gun; the clerk knew the defendant was “serious” because his eyes were “evil looking”; and the clerk was afraid and therefore gave the defendant the money. The court distinguished State v. Parker, 322 N.C. 559 (1988), on grounds that in that case, there was no weapon in sight and the victim was not afraid. Instead, the court found the case analogous to State v. White, 142 N.C. App. 201 (2001), which concluded that there was sufficient evidence of violence or fear when the defendant handed a threatening note to the store clerks implying that he had a gun, even though none of them saw a firearm in his possession.

State v. Hill, 365 N.C. 273 (Oct. 7, 2011)

Affirming the court of appeals, the court held the State presented substantial evidence that the victim’s money was taken through the use or threatened use of a dangerous weapon. The court noted that the investigating officer had testified that the victim reported being robbed by a man with a knife. The court also held that the evidence was sufficient to establish that the victim’s life was endangered or threatened by the assailant’s possession, use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, relying on the testimony noted above and the victim’s injuries. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence failed to support this element because the victim never indicated that he was afraid or felt threatened, concluding that the question is whether a person’s life was in fact endangered or threatened by the weapon, not whether the victim was scared or in fear of his or her life.

The defendant and her boyfriend robbed the victim at his home. During the robbery the two pinned the victim down, hit him with a stick, and stunned him several times with a taser. The victim’s wallet was stolen, and he was left with blood coming out of his ears, a knot on his head, and a taser burn. The defendant was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. After being convicted at trial, the defendant raised several claims on appeal. The appellate court found no error as to the criminal convictions, but did reverse a related judgment of contempt. 

First, the defendant argued that her motion to dismiss at trial should have been granted, because there was insufficient evidence that a taser was a deadly weapon. The appellate court disagreed, citing precedent including State v. Gay, 151 N.C. App. 530 (2002) in which a stun gun previously has been deemed a dangerous or deadly weapon. Moreover, noting that any implement can be a deadly weapon based on the manner in which it is used, in this case the taser was used to stun the victim in the course of beating him and causing injury, providing a sufficient factual basis from which the jury could find that the taser was a deadly weapon.

Second, the defendant argued that the trial judge improperly expressed an opinion during the jury instructions that the taser was a deadly weapon. This issue was not raised at trial level, but as an alleged statutory violation it was nevertheless reviewable de novo on appeal. However, the appellate court held there was no error. During one portion of the instructions, the trial judge identified the taser as the alleged deadly weapon, but the remainder of the instructions made it clear that it was left up to the jury to decide whether the taser was a deadly weapon in this case or not.

Third, the defendant sought plain error review on an unpreserved argument that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury on serious bodily injury. This argument was likewise rejected, since serious bodily injury is not an element of armed robbery. The trial court’s instructions on the deadly weapon element of armed robbery correctly explained that it means a weapon “capable of” causing death or serious bodily injury, and as noted above there was a sufficient showing of that capability here since it was used to incapacitate the victim. But the state was not required to prove, nor was the jury required to find, that the victim actually suffered serious bodily injury in this case.

Fourth, the appellate court denied the defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, alleging that her attorney conceded her guilt to common law robbery without her knowledge or consent in violation of State v. Harbison, 315 N.C. 175 (1985). The court found that “[t]his assertion is simply not true,” as shown by the transcript. The trial judge engaged in a Harbison inquiry with the defendant immediately after her attorney’s closing arguments, and the defendant stated that she had discussed the admissions with her attorney beforehand and they were made with her consent.

Finally, the defendant appealed the trial court’s order holding her in direct criminal contempt for failing to put on the clothes provided for her. Based on a “plain reading” of G.S. 5A-14(b) and citing to more recent precedent, the appellate court held that the contempt order failed to clearly indicate that the trial judge had applied a reasonable doubt standard when making the factual findings, so the contempt order and judgment were reversed.

In this robbery case where the defendant was punished as a habitual felon, (1) the defendant failed to preserve a fatal variance argument; (2) there was insufficient evidence of attempted armed robbery; (3) assuming without deciding that the trial court expressed its opinion in violation of G.S. 15A-1222, the defendant was not prejudiced; and (4) the trial court erred by accepting the defendant’s stipulation to having attained habitual felon status.  

Noting that a defendant must specifically state at trial that a fatal variance is the basis for a motion to dismiss in order to preserve that argument for appellate review, the court found that the defendant waived his variance argument by basing his motion to dismiss solely on insufficiency of the evidence. 

With regard to insufficiency of the evidence of attempted armed robbery, the defendant argued that there was insufficient evidence of the use of a dangerous weapon.  The defendant had threatened an associate with a pistol and rifle that appeared to be firearms but turned out to be an air pistol and a pellet rifle.  Reviewing the rules from State v. Allen, 317 N.C. 119 (1986) and related cases about sufficiency of the evidence in situations involving instruments that appear to be but may not in fact be dangerous weapons, the court said that because the evidence was conclusive that the pistol and rifle were not firearms, the State was required to introduce evidence of the weapons’ “capability to inflict death or great bodily injury” to merit submission of the attempted armed robbery charge to the jury.  As no such evidence was introduced, the trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence.

During the testimony of a defense witness, the trial court interjected to admonish the witness not to refer to the pistol and rifle as “airsoft” weapons because, in the trial court’s view, that terminology was not an accurate description of the items.  Assuming without deciding that this admonishment was an improper expression of opinion and accepting for argument that it may have negatively impacted the jury’s view of the witness’s testimony, there was not a reasonable probability that the jury would have reached a different verdict absent the admonishment.

Finally, the State conceded and the court agreed that the trial court erred by accepting the defendant’s stipulation to having attained habitual felon status without conducting the required guilty plea colloquy.

The defendant and another person committed an attempted robbery of a convenience store in which they pointed what appeared to be a gun at the clerk and demanded money. When the clerk explained that he had already put the money in the store’s safe, the two men fled. The defendant was eventually charged with attempted armed robbery, but the weapon used was never found. At trial, a detective testified for the state that the defendant had admitted to committing the attempted robbery, but claimed that it was only a BB gun and not a real gun. The jury convicted the defendant of attempted armed robbery, and the defendant appealed. The defendant argued that the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of common law robbery. The appellate court agreed and vacated the conviction. The trial court is required to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of common law robbery “if there is any evidence – whether offered by the State or by the defendant – that the implement used was not a deadly weapon.” In this case, since the state presented some evidence (the defendant’s statement, as testified to by the detective) that the purported firearm was only a BB gun, the trial court was required to instruct the jury on the lesser offense.

In this armed robbery case, the trial court did not err by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of common law robbery.  The court began its analysis by noting that “[o]nly one element distinguishes common law robbery and robbery with a dangerous weapon, and that element is the use of a dangerous weapon.”  The trial court did not instruct the jury that the box cutter the state’s evidence tended to show the defendant used during the robbery was a dangerous weapon as a matter of law and instead submitted that factual issue to the jury.  Relying on State v. Clevinger, ___ N.C. App. ___, 791 S.E.2d 248 (2016), the court held that the defendant was not entitled to an instruction on the lesser included offense because, though it did not do so, the trial court could have found the box cutter to be a dangerous weapon as a matter of law.

In this armed robbery case, the trial court did not err by failing to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of common law robbery. The defendant entered three convenience stores with his face covered and a gun in his hand and stole money in the presence of the store clerks. The defendant argued that the State failed to present evidence that the victims’ lives were endangered or threatened. With respect to two of the robberies, the defendant argued that there was no evidence that he actually pointed his gun at the clerks. With respect to the third, he noted that the clerk testified that she was “never scared.” The court distinguished cases holding that mere possession of a weapon during a robbery is insufficient to support a finding that the victim’s life was endangered or threatened on the basis that in those cases, neither the victim nor the bystanders actually saw the weapon. It went on to note that where the evidence establishes that a defendant held a dangerous weapon that was seen by the victim or a witness during the robbery, cases hold that this element is satisfied. Thus, with respect to the robberies where the clerks saw the defendant holding the gun, the evidence was sufficient. With respect to the third robbery, the court held, citing prior case law, that the State is not required to prove that the victim was in fact afraid.

In this armed robbery case, the evidence was sufficient to establish that the defendant used a dangerous weapon in a way that endangered the victim. A store loss prevention officer questioned the defendant about having taken some store jewelry in the store foyer. During the exchange, the victim saw a knife in the defendant’s pocket. The defendant attempted to force his way out of the store foyer and pulled the unopened knife out of his pocket. The victim grabbed the defendant’s hand and wrestled the closed knife away from the defendant while the defendant repeatedly said, “I will kill you.” Deciding an issue of first impression, the court cited cases from other jurisdictions and held that a closed knife can constitute a dangerous weapon for purposes of armed robbery. It stated: “Defendant’s brandishing and use of the knife satisfied the element of a dangerous weapon. The manner and circumstances in which Defendant displayed the knife alludes to its purpose: Defendant yelled ‘I will kill you,’ attempted to push past [the victim], removed the knife from his pocket and brandished it when [the victim] mentioned police involvement.” The court went on to hold that the State presented sufficient evidence tending to show that the victim’s life was endangered or threatened by the defendant’s actions and threats.

Where the State’s evidence was positive and uncontroverted as to whether a weapon used during an armed robbery was in fact a dangerous weapon and there was no evidence from which a rational juror could find that the weapon was anything other than a dangerous one, no error occurred when the trial court submitted the issue of whether the weapon was dangerous to the jury but did not instruct on common law robbery. The State’s evidence showed that during the robbery the defendant grabbed the victim, pulled her head back, and held a chef’s knife against her neck as he threatened to slit her throat.

State v. Holt, 241 N.C. App. 577 (June 16, 2015)

The trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss a charge of armed robbery. One of the victims testified that all three perpetrators had handguns. A BB pistol and a pellet gun were found near the scene of the robbery. The defendant argued that the State failed to produce any evidence that these items were dangerous weapons capable of inflicting serious injury or death. Distinguishing State v. Fleming, 148 N.C. App. 16 (2001) (trial court erred in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss charge of armed robbery when the evidence showed that he committed two robberies using a BB gun and the State failed to introduce any evidence that the BB gun was capable of inflicting death or great bodily injury), the court held:

[U]nlike in Fleming, where the weapon used to perpetrate the robbery was recovered from the defendant’s direct physical possession, here there is no evidence that conclusively links either the BB pistol or the pellet gun to the robbery. Neither Defendant nor his co-conspirators were carrying any weapons when they were apprehended by police. Further, no evidence was offered regarding any fingerprints on, or ownership of, either gun, and neither the victims nor Defendant identified either of the guns as having been used during the robbery. Moreover, even assuming arguendo that both the BB pistol and the pellet gun could be conclusively linked to the robbery, [one of the victims] testified that all three of the men who robbed his home were armed with handguns. Although Defendant’s counsel attempted to impeach [the victim] on this point, the trial court properly left the credibility of [his] testimony as a matter for the jury to resolve, and as such, it would have been permissible for a reasonable juror to infer that not all, if any, of the weapons used during the robbery had been recovered or accounted for. Indeed, if taken as true, Defendant’s second post-arrest statement to Detective Snipes suggests that Defendant had the motivation and opportunity to “dump” the third weapon just like he claimed to have dumped the ounce of marijuana he purported to have stolen from the residence that investigators never recovered.

Thus, although the mandatory presumption that the weapons were dangerous did not apply, there was sufficient evidence for the case to go to the jury on the armed robbery charge.

There was sufficient evidence that a lawn chair was a dangerous weapon for purposes of armed robbery. 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.

(1) The State presented sufficient evidence to establish that a stun gun was a dangerous weapon for purposes of armed robbery. The court concluded, in part, that although the victim did not die or come close to death, she was seriously injured. Given that serious injury “a permissive inference existed sufficient to support a jury determination that the stun gun was a dangerous weapon.” (2) The State presented sufficient evidence that the stun gun was used in a way that endangered or threatened the victim’s life. The court noted that the victim was tased, suffered significant pain, fell, injured her rotator cuff, endured two surgeries and extensive physical therapy, and two years later still experienced pain and a limited range of motion in her arm.

State v. Maness, 363 N.C. 261 (June 18, 2009)

If the events constitute a continuous transaction, a defendant may be convicted of armed robbery when the dangerous weapon taken during the robbery also is the weapon used to perpetrate the offense. In this case, the defendant fought with a law enforcement officer and “emerged from the fight” with the officer’s gun.

There was sufficient evidence that a theft and use of force were part of a continuous transaction. A witness testified that the defendant went to the victim’s mobile home with the intent to rob him, shot and killed the victim, and left with money and drugs.

The evidence was sufficient to show that either the defendant or his accomplice used a firearm to induce the victim to part with her purse.

Where the evidence showed that the defendant’s attack on the victim and the taking of his wallets constituted a single, continuous transaction, the evidence was sufficient to support an armed robbery charge. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that she took the victim’s wallets only as an afterthought. The court also rejected the defendant’s argument that the evidence was insufficient because it was not positive that she possessed the weapon when she demanded the victim’s money. The court noted that the defendant held the pickaxe when she assaulted the victim and had already overcome and injured him when she demanded his wallets and took his money; the pickaxe had already served its purpose in subduing the victim.

The evidence was sufficient to sustain an armed robbery conviction when the item stolen—a handgun—was also the item used to threaten or endanger the victim’s life.

There was sufficient evidence that the theft and the use of force were part of one continuous transaction when the defendant formed an intent to rob the victim, attacked her, and then took her money. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that his rape of the victim constituted a break in the continuous transaction.

The defendant’s use of violence was concomitant with and inseparable from the theft of the property from a store where the store manager confronted the defendant in the parking lot and attempted to retrieve the stolen property, at which point the defendant struck the store manager. This constituted a continuous transaction.

State v. Lee, 213 N.C. App. 392 (July 19, 2011)

In a robbery case, the court held that the trial judge properly instructed the jury on the doctrine of recent possession as to non-unique goods (cigarettes).

Because misdemeanor larceny and simple assault are lesser included offenses of common law robbery, the trial court erred by sentencing the defendant for all three offenses. The court rejected the State’s argument that the defendant was not prejudiced by this error because all three convictions were consolidated for judgment and the defendant received the lowest possible sentence in the mitigated range. The court noted that the State’s argument ignores the collateral consequences of the judgment. The court thus arrested judgment on the convictions for misdemeanor larceny and simple assault.

Applying a definitional rather than a factual test, the court held that extortion is not a lesser included offense of armed robbery.

Distinguishing State v. Holland, 234 N.C. 354 (1951), and State v. Murphy, 225 N.C. 115 (1945), in which the victims were rendered unconscious by the defendants and regained consciousness bereft of their property, the court held that there was sufficient evidence that the defendant was the perpetrator of the robbery. Shoe prints placed the defendant at the scene, he admitted that he was with the victim on the morning in question, a receipt found at the scene bearing the defendant’s name indicated that he was in the area at the time, a crack pipe with the victim’s DNA was found in the defendant’s vehicle, the defendant matched the description given by the victim to investigators, a third party encountered the defendant at the scene not long after the events occurred, and the defendant told conflicting stories to investigators.

As a matter of legislative intent, the court held that a defendant may not be convicted for both armed robbery and possession of stolen goods taken during the robbery.

Addressing the issue as one of legislative intent, the court held that the trial court did not err by imposing punishment for armed robbery in Johnston County when the defendant previously pled guilty in Harnett County to two counts of misdemeanor possession of stolen goods with respect to some of the property obtained in the robbery. The misdemeanor charges pertained to the defendant’s possession of two stolen lottery tickets. The robbery charge involved theft of money and hundreds of additional tickets. Noting this, the court concluded the same property was not at issue. The court went on to conclude that the offenses for which the defendant pled guilty was not for the same conduct at issue in the robbery charge, stating: “the possession to which defendant pled guilty was solely related to his attempt at cashing in two lottery tickets a few days after the robbery in Johnston County and was adjudicated in a separate trial in another county, with different facts and evidence.” Finally, the court concluded that even if the two tickets were the exact same and only property stolen during the robbery, the defendant’s appeal must fail because he repeatedly opposed other remedies at trial, including an offer by the State not to mention the tickets that were at issue in the earlier proceeding

The trial court did not err by convicting the defendant of both robbery with a dangerous weapon and assault with a deadly weapon where each conviction arose from discreet conduct. 

(1) Where the defendant and his accomplices attempted to rob two victims inside a residence, the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss one of the charges. The defendant argued that because only one residence was involved, only one charge was proper. Distinguishing cases holding that only one robbery occurs when the defendant robs a business of its property by taking it from multiple employees, the court noted that here the defendant and his accomplices demanded that both victims turn over their own personal property. (2) Although the group initially planned to rob just one person, the defendant properly was convicted of attempting to rob a second person they found at the residence. The attempted robbery of the second person was in pursuit of the group’s common plan.

A defendant may not be sentenced for both robbery and possession of stolen property taken during the robbery.

State v. Bell, 227 N.C. App. 339 (May. 21, 2013)

(1) Notwithstanding the defendant’s testimony that the gun used in a robbery was unloaded, the trial court properly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss an armed robbery charge. The victim testified that the defendant entered her business, pointed a gun at her and demanded money. The defendant testified that he unloaded the gun before entering. He also testified that upon leaving he saw the police and ran into the woods where he left his hoodie and gun and jumped off of an embankment. On appeal, the defendant argued that the evidence was insufficient because it showed that the gun was unloaded. Because of the defendant’s testimony, the mandatory presumption of danger or threat to life arising from the defendant’s use of what appeared to the victim to be firearm disappeared. However, a permissive inference to that effect remained. Given the defendant’s flight and attempt to hide evidence, the use of the permissive inference was not inappropriate. (2) The trial court did not err by declining to give a jury instruction regarding the mere possession of a firearm. The defendant argued that the trial court should have given the instruction in footnote six to element seven of N.C.P.I.—Crim. 217.20. That footnote instructs that where use of a firearm is in issue, the trial court should instruct that mere possession of the firearm does not, in itself, constitute endangering or threating the life of the victim. Here, however, the evidence showed that the defendant displayed and threatened to use the weapon by pointing it at the victim; the mere possession instruction therefore was not required.

In an armed robbery case, the trial court did not err by failing to instruct the jury on common law robbery and by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss armed robbery charges. Because there was no evidence that the gun was inoperable or unloaded, there was no evidence to rebut the presumption that the firearm was functioning properly.

Where witness testimony indicated that the defendant used a gun in an armed robbery and there was no evidence that the gun was inoperable, the State was not required to affirmatively demonstrate operability and the trial court was not required to instruct on common law robbery.

State v. Ford, 194 N.C. App. 468 (Dec. 16, 2008)

There was sufficient evidence to establish that the defendant used a firearm in an armed robbery case. The evidence showed that the defendant and an accomplice entered a store and that one of them pointed what appeared to be a silver handgun at the clerk. When later arresting the accomplice at a residence, an officer saw what appeared to be a silver gun on the ground. However, the item turned out to be some type of lighter that appeared to be a gun. Neither the state nor the defendant presented evidence at trial that the item found was the one used during the robbery. When a person perpetrates a robbery by brandishing an instrument that appears to be a firearm or other dangerous weapon, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, the law will presume the instrument to be what the person’s conduct represents it to be.

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