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., 09/21/2021
E.g., 09/21/2021

In this drug case, the trial court did not err by admitting a forensic laboratory report after the defendant stipulated to its admission. The defendant argued that the trial court erred by failing to engage in a colloquy with her to ensure that she personally waived her sixth amendment right to confront the analyst whose testimony otherwise would be necessary to admit the report. State v. Perez, __ N.C. App. __, __, 817 S.E.2d 612, 615 (2018), establishes that a waiver of Confrontation Clause rights does not require the type of colloquy required to waive the right to counsel or to enter a guilty plea. In that case, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by allowing him to stipulate to the admission of forensic laboratory reports without engaging in a colloquy to ensure that he understood the consequences of that decision. The court rejected that argument, declining the defendant’s request to impose on trial courts an obligation to personally address a defendant whose attorney seeks to waive any of his constitutional rights through a stipulation. In Perez, the court noted that if the defendant did not understand the implications of the stipulation, his recourse is a motion for appropriate relief asserting ineffective assistance of counsel. The court rejected the defendant’s attempt to distinguish Perez on grounds that it involved a written stipulation personally signed by the defendant, while this case involves defense counsel’s oral stipulation made in the defendant’s presence. The court found this a “distinction without a difference.” Here, the stipulation did not amount to an admission of guilt and thus was not the equivalent of a guilty plea. The court continued:

[W]e . . . decline to impose on the trial courts a categorical obligation “to personally address a defendant” whose counsel stipulates to admission of a forensic report and corresponding waiver of Confrontation Clause rights. That advice is part of the role of the defendant’s counsel. The trial court’s obligation to engage in a separate, on-the-record colloquy is triggered only when the stipulation “has the same practical effect as a guilty plea.”

In this drug case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court violated his Confrontation Clause rights when it permitted him to stipulate to the admission of forensic laboratory reports without first addressing him personally and ensuring that he understood the stipulation would waive those rights. At trial the prosecutor informed the trial court that the defendant intended to stipulate to the admission of forensic laboratory reports confirming that the substance seized was cocaine. Both defense counsel and the defendant signed the stipulations and the trial court admitted the stipulated evidence. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court erred by permitting him to stipulate to the admission of the reports without engaging in a colloquy to ensure he understood the consequences of that decision. The court rejected this argument. It began by acknowledging that the stipulation acted as a waiver of the defendant’s Confrontation Clause rights. The court held however that “the waiver of Confrontation Clause rights does not require the sort of extensive colloquy needed to waive the right to counsel or enter a guilty plea.” The court rejected the defendant’s argument that State v. English, 171 N.C. App. 277 (2005), requires such a colloquy. Here, both the defendant and counsel signed the stipulations, and there may have been strategic reasons to do so. The court found it notable that the defendant did not argue that his lawyer failed to discuss those strategic issues with him, or that defense counsel failed to explain that stipulating to admission of the lab reports would waive his Confrontation Clause rights. Instead, he argued that the trial court should have discussed these issues with him in open court. The court declined the defendant’s request to impose on trial courts an obligation to personally address a defendant whose attorney seeks to waive any of his constitutional rights via stipulation with the State. If the defendant did not understand the implications of stipulating, his recourse is to pursue an MAR asserting ineffective assistance of counsel.

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