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., 06/17/2024
E.g., 06/17/2024
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.

In this Guilford County case, defendant appealed his convictions for first-degree murder based on felony murder, armed robbery, and possession of a stolen vehicle, arguing error in (1) denying his motion to dismiss the armed robbery charge and (2) not instructing the jury that self-defense could justify felony murder based on armed robbery. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

In August of 2018, defendant was staying at the apartment of a female friend when a series of phone calls from another man woke him up. Defendant went to the parking lot to confront the other man (the eventual murder victim), and defendant testified that the man threatened to kill him. At that point, defendant shot the victim four times, then after a few minutes, stole the victim’s car. The victim’s car was found abandoned in a field a day later. Defendant was indicted for first-degree murder based on felony murder, with the underlying felony being armed robbery. Defendant moved to dismiss the murder and robbery charges, arguing there was insufficient evidence the shooting and taking of the vehicle occurred in a continuous transaction. The trial court denied the motion. 

Taking up (1), the Court of Appeals noted that temporal order of the felony and the killing does not matter for a felony murder charge, as long as they are a continuous transaction. Here, the time period between the shooting and defendant taking the victim’s car was short, only “a few minutes” after the shots. Slip Op. at 6. The court also noted that “our Supreme Court has repeatedly rejected arguments a defendant must have intended to commit armed robbery at the time he killed the victim in order for the exchange to be a continuous transaction.” Id. at 7-8. Here, evidence supported the finding of a continuous transaction, and whether defendant initially intended to steal the car was immaterial. 

Moving to (2), the court pointed to precedent that self-defense is not a defense for felony murder, but it can be a defense to the underlying felony. However, the court explained that “[b]ased on our precedents, self-defense is inapplicable to armed robbery[,]” and because armed robbery was the underlying felony in this case, defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction on self-defense. Id. at 11.  

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.

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