Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium


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.


Navigate using the table of contents to the left or by using the search box below. Use quotations for an exact phrase search. A search for multiple terms without quotations functions as an “or” search. Not sure where to start? The 5 minute video tutorial offers a guided tour of main features – Launch Tutorial (opens in new tab).

E.g., 06/29/2024
E.g., 06/29/2024

The Eighth Amendment does not require courts to instruct capital sentencing juries that mitigating circumstances “need not be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

Bobby v. Mitts, 563 U.S. 395 (May. 2, 2011)

In a per curiam opinion, the Court reversed a Sixth Circuit decision granting relief to a defendant on grounds that the jury instructions used in his capital trial ran afoul of Beck v. Alabama, 447 U.S. 625 (1980) (holding that the death penalty may not be imposed when the jury was not permitted to consider a verdict of guilt of a lesser-included non-capital offense, and when the evidence would have supported such a verdict). The Court concluded that the penalty phase instruction at issue was not invalid under Beck, which dealt with guilt-innocence phase instructions.

Smith v. Spisak, 558 U.S. 139 (Jan. 12, 2010)

Distinguishing Mills v. Maryland, 486 U.S. 367 (1988), and holding that the penalty phase jury instructions and verdict forms were not unconstitutional. The defendant had asserted that the instructions improperly required the jury to consider in mitigation only those factors the jury unanimously found to be mitigating.

Show Table of Contents