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.


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

In this Onslow County case, the Supreme Court vacated a superior court order disqualifying the prosecutors from the Fifth Prosecutorial District and remanded for further proceedings. The Court determined that the district and superior court orders disqualifying the district attorney and his staff did not identify an actual conflict of interest or legitimate due process concerns. 

In 2022, defendant was charged with cyberstalking and making harassing phone calls to the county manager of Onslow County. When the matter came to district court for trial, defendant moved to disqualify the district attorney and his staff, arguing they had a conflict of interest because the county manager had financial and functional links with the district attorney and his staff. The district court granted the motion, and the State appealed to superior court. The superior court left the order intact, leading the State to petition the Court of Appeals, where writ was denied, and ultimately to petition the Supreme Court, leading to the current opinion. 

Allowing the State’s petition for writ of certiorari, the Supreme Court first explored the basis for disqualification, looking to State v. Camacho, 329 N.C. 589 (1991), for the appropriate balancing test. The Court noted that Camacho first required the finding of an “actual conflict of interest,” which only exists “when a member of a DA’s office once represented a defendant and obtained confidential information that “may be used to the defendant’s detriment at trial.”” Slip Op. at 11, quoting Camacho at 601. If a court finds an actual conflict, then Camacho calls for a balancing test of the competing interests of the prosecutor and defendant. However, here the Court could not find evidence of a conflict here, concluding “a county manager’s ‘inherent authority’ does not bar a DA from prosecuting a case in which that county manager is the alleged victim.” Id. at 15. As a result, the Court remanded to the superior court for further proceedings in keeping with the opinion. 

(1) In a proceeding for removal of an elected district attorney (DA) from office, the trial court did not err by denying the DA’s motion to continue where the statute, G.S. 7A-66, mandated that the matter be heard within 30 days. (2) In the absence of a statutory or rule-based provision for discovery in proceedings under the statute, the DA did not have a right to discovery. (3) Where the trial court put the burden of proof in the removal proceeding on the party who had initiated the action by clear, cogent and convincing evidence, no error occurred. (4) The court held that the trial court’s rulings in the removal proceeding did not violate the DA’s right to due process, noting that the DA had no right to discovery and that the trial court properly allocated the burden of proof. (5) The standard in the relevant provision of the removal statute of conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice which brings the office into disrepute is not unconstitutionally vague. (6) No violation of the prosecutor’s First Amendment free speech rights occurred where the DA’s removal was based on statements she made about a judge. The statements were made with actual malice and thus were not protected speech by the First Amendment. (7) Qualified immunity does not insulate the DA from removal based on statements made with actual malice. (8) Where the matter was heard without a jury, it is presumed that the trial court considered only admissible evidence, and the trial court did not err in admitting lay testimony. 

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