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., 04/17/2024
E.g., 04/17/2024
(Dec. 31, 1969)

In a larceny case, the State failed to present sufficient evidence that the defendant was the perpetrator.  The State’s evidence at trial showed that audio equipment had been taken from Manna Baptist Church after the church doors were inadvertently left unlocked following a Wednesday evening service.  The doors were locked by a church secretary the next morning and remained locked until Sunday morning.  The church’s pastor discovered that the equipment was missing following the Sunday service.  The defendant’s wallet was found near where some of the equipment had been stored.  In an interview with an investigator, the defendant admitted to being at the church on the night the doors were left unlocked but claimed to not remember anything that he had done while he was there.  At trial he testified that while at the church he did “a lot of soul searching” and drank a bottle of water but that he “did not take anything away from the church.”  An EMT who interacted with the defendant soon after he left the church testified that the EMT did not see him carrying anything at that time.

The court reviewed “well-settled caselaw” establishing that “evidence of a defendant’s mere opportunity to commit a crime is not sufficient to send the charge to the jury.”  Reviewing the evidence, the court said that while it “may be fairly characterized as raising a suspicion of defendant’s guilt of larceny,” crucial gaps existed in that “[t]he State failed to actually link defendant to the stolen property or to prove that he was in the church at the time when the equipment—which was never recovered—was stolen.”  The court noted that the evidence showed a four-day time span over which the theft could have occurred and that a number of other persons had access to the interior of the church during that period.  It further noted that the State was unable to show how the defendant would have been physically able to carry away the cumbersome audio equipment at issue.  The evidence presented was, in the court’s words, “simply not enough to sustain a conviction for larceny.”

(Dec. 31, 1969) review granted, ___ N.C. ___, 813 S.E.2d 849 (Jun 7 2018)

In a case involving a theft of property from a church, the court held, over a dissent, that the evidence was insufficient to support a larceny conviction. The defendant argued that the State failed to present sufficient evidence that the defendant took the property in question. The evidence showed that the church had evening services on August 15 which ended at about 9 PM. The next morning the church secretary locked the church, after discovering that it had been left unlocked. On August 19 the Pastor discovered that audio equipment, including microphones, sound system wires, a music receiver, and a pair of headphones, was missing from the church. Additionally, some computer equipment had been moved around. There were no signs of forced entry. No fingerprints or DNA evidence were taken from the premises. However, an officer found a wallet in the baptistery changing area containing the defendant’s license. None of the stolen equipment was ever located. Two days later a Detective met with the defendant, who was incarcerated in jail on an unrelated matter. The defendant admitted that he had been at the church and he had “done some things” but didn’t recall all of what he had done. He remembered that the door to the church was open and that he went in to get a drink of water and to pray. He said he left the church and called 911 after having chest pains. When emergency medical services arrived, the defendant was not carrying a bag and had nothing in his pockets. On these facts, the State’s evidence relies solely on the fact that the defendant was in the church during a four-day time period when the stolen items were taken. This is insufficient to establish that the defendant committed the larceny.

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