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
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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