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., 01/26/2023
E.g., 01/26/2023

In this Pender County case, defendant appealed his convictions for armed robbery, arguing the trial court erred by (1) admitting testimony by a detective identifying defendant as the perpetrator, (2) denying defendant’s motion to dismiss, and (3) entering judgment and commitment on two counts of armed robbery. The Court of Appeals found no error with (1) and (2), but did find error under (3), remanding for resentencing.  

In October of 2019, a man in a sweatshirt, dark athletic pants, and gray sneakers robbed a gas station in Rocky Point, brandishing a firearm and taking money from the cash registers. After law enforcement responded and reviewed surveillance footage, an officer spotted defendant walking along a road five miles north of the gas station, and detained defendant for questioning by the detective on duty. A subsequent search found $736 in cash in defendant’s clothes. Defendant was indicted for robbing the gas station, and at trial, the State admitted surveillance video and called the detective who questioned defendant to testify. During his testimony, the detective said that defendant fit the description of the suspect, and then testified over defendant’s objection that “’defendant is the person that robbed the Phoenix Travel Mart.’” Slip Op. at 4. 

Reviewing (1) defendant’s objection to the detective’s testimony, the court first noted that defendant did not properly object by requesting to strike an unresponsive answer. However, the court performed analysis under the plain error standard, concluding that the additional information supporting that defendant met the description of the suspect, and testimony from the arresting officer also supporting that defendant fit the description, suggested the jury would not have reached a different verdict but for the objectionable testimony from the detective. This evidence also supported (2) the denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss, as it represented substantial evidence linking defendant to the crime.

When reviewing (3) the entry of judgment and commitment, the Court of Appeals found error with the entry of two counts for what should have been a single count of armed robbery. The court applied the reasoning from State v. Potter, 285 N.C. 238 (1974), explaining that although two employees were involved in the robbery, defendant could only be said to have taken property from one person, the employer. Slip Op. at 12-13. The court remanded with instructions to arrest judgment on one of the convictions and resentence the defendant accordingly. 

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.

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