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., 09/26/2021
E.g., 09/26/2021

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by partially sustaining the State’s objection to expert testimony by a defense witness regarding the factors affecting the reliability of eyewitness identification. UNC-Charlotte Prof. Dr. Van Wallendael was qualified and accepted by the court as an expert witness in the field of memory perception and eyewitness identification. The defendant sought to have her testify concerning whether any factors were present that could have affected the witnesses’ identification of the defendant as the shooter. At a voir dire, the expert witness identified four factors in the case which could have affected the witnesses’ identifications: the time factor; the disguise factor; the stress factor; and the weapon focus effect. According to the time factor, the likelihood of an accurate identification increases the longer in time a witness has to view the perpetrator’s face. Under the disguise factor, anything covering the face of the perpetrator decreases the chances of an accurate identification later by the eyewitness. The stress factor states that stress, especially from violent crimes, can significantly reduce an eyewitness’s ability to remember accurately. Studies on the weapon focus factor show that people confronted with a weapon tend to concentrate their attention on the weapon itself, and not the individual holding the weapon, which decreases the likelihood of an accurate identification of the assailant or shooter later. The trial court sustained the State’s objection to opinion testimony concerning the time and disguise factors, noting that they are commonsense conclusions that would be of little if any benefit to the jury. It did however allow testimony on the stress factor and the weapon focus effect. The defendant failed to show any abuse of discretion by the trial court in partially sustaining the State’s objection. The trial court properly found that the time and disguise concepts were commonsense conclusions that would be of little benefit to the jury.

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