State v. Melton, 371 N.C. 750 (Dec. 7, 2018)

On discretionary review of a unanimous, unpublished decision of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 801 S.E.2d 392 (2017), the court reversed, holding that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a conviction for attempted murder. The evidence showed that the defendant solicited an undercover officer—who he thought to be a hired killer--to kill his former wife. He gave the officer $2,500 as an initial payment, provided the officer details necessary to complete the killing, and helped the officer plan how to get his former wife alone and how to kill her out of the presence of their daughter. The defendant was arrested after he left his meeting with the officer; he was charged—and later convicted—of attempted murder and solicitation to commit murder.

          The court concluded that while the evidence was sufficient to show solicitation, it “fell short of showing the required overt acts for attempted first-degree murder.” Specifically, none of the defendant’s preparatory acts “amount to proof of overt acts amounting to attempt under our law.” In so ruling, the court determined that the Court of Appeals inappropriately looked to decisions from other jurisdictions to conclude that “although mere solicitation is insufficient to constitute attempt, specific acts taken to complete a murder-for-hire, such as those taken by [defendant] here, can satisfy the elements of attempted murder,” where the law regarding attempt in each of those jurisdictions is materially different from North Carolina law. Justice Morgan dissented, joined by Chief Justice Martin and Justice Newby.

There was dissenting opinion in this case.