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.

Instructions

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E.g., 06/27/2024
E.g., 06/27/2024

In a per curiam decision, the Court determined that defense counsel’s performance in the punishment phase of a capital murder trial was deficient and remanded the case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for that court to address the prejudice prong of a Strickland ineffective...

The presumption of prejudice recognized in Roe v. Flores-Ortega, 528 U.S. 470 (2000), applies regardless of whether the defendant has signed an appeal waiver. Defendant Garza signed two plea agreements arising from charges brought by the State of Idaho. Each agreement included a...

Under the Sixth Amendment, a defendant has the right to insist that defense counsel refrain from admitting guilt, even when counsel’s experienced-based view is that confessing guilt offers the defendant the best chance to avoid the death penalty. The defendant was charged with three counts of...

By wrongly advising the defendant that a guilty plea to a drug charge would not result in deportation, counsel rendered ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) in connection with the defendant’s plea. After he was charged with possessing ecstasy with intent to distribute, the defendant feared...

Weaver v. Massachusetts, 582 U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 1899 (June 22, 2017)

In a case where the defendant failed to preserve a claim of structural error with respect to improper closure of the courtroom and raised it later in the context of an ineffective assistance claim, the Court held that the defendant was not relieved of his burden of establishing prejudice, which...

In this Texas capital murder case, the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel was violated when his lawyer introduced evidence from a psychologist that the defendant was statistically more likely to act violently because he is black. A Texas jury convicted the...

The defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to secure counsel of choice was violated when the government, acting pursuant to 18 U. S. C. §1345, froze pretrial the defendant’s legitimate, untainted assets and thus prevented her from hiring counsel to defend her in the criminal case. Critical to the...

The Court reversed the state decision below which had held that the defendant’s lawyers were ineffective under Strickland. At the defendant’s 1995 murder trial, the State offered FBI Agent Peele as an expert witness on Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis (CBLA). Peele’s testimony linked a...

In this habeas corpus case, the Court reversed the Sixth Circuit, which had held that defense counsel provided per se ineffective assistance of counsel under United States v. Cronic, 466 U. S. 648 (1984), when he was briefly absent during testimony concerning other defendants. The Court...

Defense counsel in a capital case rendered deficient performance when he made an “inexcusable mistake of law” causing him to employ an expert “that he himself deemed inadequate.” Counsel believed that he could only obtain $1,000 for expert assistance when in fact he could have sought court...

Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156 (Mar. 21, 2012)

The Court held that defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance by advising a defendant to reject a plea offer and it specified the appropriate remedy for the constitutional violation. The defendant was charged with assault with intent to murder, possession of a firearm by a felon,...

Missouri v. Frye, 566 U.S. 133 (Mar. 21, 2012)

The Court held that a defense lawyer rendered ineffective assistance by allowing a plea offer by the prosecution to expire without advising the defendant of the offer or allowing him to consider it. The defendant was charged with felony driving with a revoked license, an offense carrying a...

In a capital case, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals improperly granted the defendant habeas relief on his claim of penalty-phase ineffective assistance of counsel. The defendant and two accomplices broke into a house at night, killing two men who interrupted the burglary. A jury convicted the...

Premo v. Moore, 562 U.S. 115 (Jan. 19, 2011)

The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, which had held that the state court unreasonably applied existing law when rejecting the defendant’s claim that counsel was ineffective by failing to file a motion to suppress the defendant’s confession to police before advising him to accept a plea offer....

The Court reversed the Ninth Circuit, which had held that the state court unreasonably applied existing law when rejecting the defendant’s claim that his counsel was deficient by failing to present expert testimony on serology, pathology, and blood spatter patterns; the defendant had asserted...

Sears v. Upton, 561 U.S. 945 (June 29, 2010)

After the defendant was sentenced to death in state court, a state post-conviction court found that the defendant’s lawyer conducted a constitutionally inadequate penalty phase investigation that failed to uncover evidence of the defendant’s significant mental and psychological impairments....

After pleading guilty to a charge of transportation of a large amount of marijuana, the defendant, a lawful permanent resident of the United States for more than 40 years, faced deportation. He challenged his plea, arguing that his counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to inform him...

Wood v. Allen, 558 U.S. 290 (Jan. 20, 2010)

The state court’s conclusion that the defendant’s counsel made a strategic decision not to pursue or present evidence of his mental deficiencies was not an unreasonable determination of the facts. The Court did not reach the question of whether the strategic decision itself was a reasonable...

Smith v. Spisak, 558 U.S. 139 (Jan. 12, 2010)

Even if counsel’s closing argument at the sentencing phase of a capital trial fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, the defendant could not show that he was prejudiced by this conduct.

Porter v. McCollum, 558 U.S. 30 (Nov. 30, 2009)

A capital defendant’s trial counsel’s conduct fell below an objective standard of reasonableness when counsel failed to investigate and present mitigating evidence, including evidence of the defendant’s mental health, family background, and military service. The state court’s holding that the...

Wong v. Belmontes, 558 U.S. 15 (Nov. 16, 2009)

Even if counsel’s performance was deficient with regard to mitigating evidence in a capital trial, the defendant could not establish prejudice. Trial counsel testified that he presented a limited mitigating case in order to avoid opening the door for the prosecution to admit damaging evidence...

Bobby v. Van Hook, 558 U.S. 4 (Nov. 9, 2009)

Although restatements of professional conduct, such as ABA Guidelines, can be useful guides to whether an attorney’s conduct was reasonable, they are relevant only when they describe the professional norms prevailing at the time that the representation occurred. In this case, the lower court...

Knowles v. Mirzayance, 556 U.S. 111 (Mar. 24, 2009)

Counsel was not ineffective by recommending that the defendant withdraw his insanity defense. The defendant entered pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI) at his first-degree murder trial in state court. State procedure required a bifurcated trial consisting of a guilt...

In this Union County case, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision that defendant effectively waived her right to counsel and remanded the case for a new trial.

Defendant was subject to a Domestic Violence Prevention Order (DVPO) entered against her in 2013; the terms of...

In this New Hanover County case, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals majority decision vacating the judgments against defendant and ordering a new trial because he was denied his constitutional right to counsel.  

In May of 2015, defendant was indicted for first-degree murder...

The defendant was convicted in 1997 of two counts of first-degree statutory sex offense and was sentenced as a prior record level IV to 339 - 416 months in prison.  He filed a motion for appropriate relief (MAR), arguing that he should have been sentenced at prior record level III.  Before...

On appeal, the defendant’s sole argument was that the trial court erred because his waiver of counsel was not voluntary and was a result of the defendant’s belief that representing himself was the only way to avoid delaying his trial. On May 19, 2019, the defendant requested that his first...

In this Stokes County case, the defendant was an undocumented Mexican citizen living in North Carolina. In 2010, he was charged with felony drug offenses and pled guilty. Defense counsel advised the defendant that there “may” be immigration consequences as a result. In 2017, he was arrested by...

The rule of State v. Harbison, 315 N.C. 175 (1985) that a criminal defendant suffers a per se violation of the right to effective assistance of counsel when counsel concedes the defendant’s guilt to the jury without the defendant’s prior consent applies to situations involving an...

On discretionary review of a unanimous decision below, 259 N.C. App. 127 (2018), the court reversed the Court of Appeals and held that appellate counsel was not ineffective for failing to cite a particular line of cases because the facts of this case were distinguishable from those in the line...

In this case involving a waiver of counsel at a probation revocation hearing and the defendant’s appeal of the trial court’s revocation of her probation, the court declined to dismiss the appeal due to the defendant’s failure to comply with Rule 4 of the Rules of Appellate Procedure and...

The defendant was charged with multiple crimes related to a break-in at the home of the elected district attorney. The trial court allowed the defendant’s first appointed lawyer to withdraw based on an unspecified conflict in February 2018. In April 2018 his second appointed lawyer also moved to...

In this Moore County case, the defendant was convicted of first-degree rape and sex offense, crime against nature, possession of firearm by felon, communicating threats and various assaults stemming from attacks on his estranged then-wife. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court...

In March 2018 the defendant was charged with multiple crimes after breaking into a gas station. In August 2018, the trial court first addressed the defendant’s right to counsel. The defendant said that he did not want a lawyer, but then, when asked by the judge, “You’re not just waiving...

In this case where the defendant was tried without counsel for driving with a revoked license, RDO, and other charges, the Court of Appeals was correct in holding that the defendant did not forfeit his right to counsel and that the trial court therefore was required to ensure that the defendant’...

In this Duplin County case, the defendant was convicted by a jury of financial card fraud, obtaining property by false pretenses, identity theft, and habitual felon. She appealed, arguing that her motion to dismiss for insufficiency of the evidence should have been granted as to the identity...

The defendant was convicted by a jury of two counts of statutory sexual offense with a child by an adult and one count of first-degree kidnapping based on his repeated sexual assaults of his seven-year-old niece. The trial court sentenced the defendant to prison and ordered him to enroll in...

State v. Ryan, 371 N.C. 445 (Sept. 27, 2019)

After a hung jury and mistrial in 2009, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon in 2010 and sentenced to death. Defendant appealed, but the case was remanded to the trial court to resolve the defendant’s post-conviction motions, including a motion...

The defendant was charged with drug offenses. A lawyer was appointed to represent him. Immediately before trial, the defendant stated that he wanted to hire a lawyer instead and could afford to do so. A superior court judge determined that appointed counsel was providing effective assistance and...

The defendant was charged with driving while license revoked, not an impaired revocation; assault on a female; possession of a firearm by a person previously convicted of a felony; attempted robbery with a dangerous weapon; and habitual felon status. The State proceeded to trial on the charges...

In this habitual larceny case where the defendant was sentenced as a habitual felon, the defendant did not establish that his trial counsel did not have authority to stipulate to the prior convictions used to elevate his charge to habitual larceny.  Noting that in other contexts it had expressly...

In this felon in possession of a firearm case, the defendant was not deprived of effective assistance of counsel when the trial court rejected defense counsel’s attempt to stipulate to the fact that the defendant was a convicted felon where the defendant disagreed with the stipulation. Before...

The court per curiam affirmed an unpublished decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 813 S.E.2d 478 (2018) holding that the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion for appropriate relief (MAR) alleging ineffective assistance of appellate counsel with...

In this indecent liberties case, the defendant waived any right of appellate review with respect to his arguments challenging admission of his inculpatory statements (he had asserted a Miranda violation and that the statements were involuntary). The defendant has the burden of establishing that...

In this child sexual assault case, the court reversed the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR) seeking a new trial for ineffective assistance of counsel related to opinion testimony by the State’s expert. The defendant was convicted of sexual offenses...

Addressing the merits of an IAC claim raised in a MAR, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that attorney Warmack provided ineffective assistance of counsel at an evidentiary remand hearing because of a dual representation conflict arising from having previously represented codefendant...

The court reversed the trial court’s order granting the defendant’s motion for reconsideration and motion for appropriate relief (MAR), holding that the requirement that counsel advise the defendant of the immigration consequences of a plea agreement established by Padilla does not...

In this drug trafficking case, the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion for appropriate relief (MAR) which asserted ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. Drug were discovered after a vehicle stop. The defendant lost his motion to suppress and after being convicted appealed...

In this sexual assault case, the trial court did not err by failing to appoint substitute defense counsel. Absent a Sixth Amendment violation, the decision of whether appointed counsel should be replaced is a discretionary one for the trial court. Here, the defendant informed the trial court...

(1) Addressing the merits of the defendant’s Strickland ineffective assistance of counsel claim in this direct appeal in a capital case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his lawyers disclosed to law enforcement where to...

In this assault case, the court held that although the trial court erred by instructing prospective jurors outside of the presence of defense counsel, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. During jury selection the trial court called a recess. While waiting for jury selection to...

State v. Morgan, 259 N.C.App. 179, 814 S.E.2d 843 (Apr. 17, 2018) rev’d in part on other grounds, 372 N.C. 609, 831 S.E.2d 254 (Aug 16 2019)

Because the defendant was not given notice and an opportunity to be heard as to the final amount of attorneys’ fees that would be entered against him, the court vacated the civil judgment entered pursuant to G.S. 7A-455 and remanded to the trial court. At sentencing, the trial court may enter a...

The trial court’s determination that the defendant had forfeited his right to counsel does not “carry over” to the new trial, ordered by the court for unrelated reasons. In the 3½ years leading up to trial the defendant, among other things, fired or threatened to fire three separate lawyers,...

In this drug trafficking case, the trial court did not err by requiring the defendant to represent himself at trial. In September 2013, the defendant appeared before a Superior Court Judge and signed a waiver of counsel form. In December 2013 the defendant appeared before another judge and...

The trial court erred by entering a civil judgment against the defendant for the attorneys’ fees incurred by his court-appointed counsel under G.S. 7A-455 without providing the defendant with notice and an opportunity to be heard. The court explained, in part:

With respect to counsel fees...

(1) In this sexual assault case the court reversed and remanded for a new trial, finding that even if the defendant had clearly and unequivocally asked to proceed pro se, the record did not establish that the defendant’s waiver of counsel complied with G.S. 15A-1242. The defendant was indicted...

Following precedent, the court rejected the defendant’s assertion that counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to assert a fourth amendment claim at the hearing where he was ordered to submit to satellite-based monitoring for life. SBM proceedings are civil and ineffective assistance...

In a case where the trial court made a pretrial determination of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI), the defendant’s constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel was violated when the trial court allowed defense counsel to pursue a pretrial insanity defense against her wishes....

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying counsel’s motion to withdraw. The defendant was indicted for first-degree murder and armed robbery. Just prior to trial, the defendant provided defense counsel with a list of facts that he wished to concede to the jury: that he was at the...

The court rejected the defendant’s assertion that counsel was ineffective by failing to state for the record details of an absolute impasse between himself and counsel. Although the defendant initially wanted counsel to make certain admissions in opening statements to the jury, after discussing...

The court agreed with the defendant that a civil judgment imposing fees against him must be vacated because neither the defense counsel’s total attorney fee amount nor the appointment fee were discussed in open court with the defendant. The court noted that on remand the State may apply for...

State v. Todd, 369 N.C. 707 (June 9, 2017)

The Court of Appeals erred by holding that the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel when appellate counsel failed to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the defendant’s armed robbery conviction. Before the Supreme Court, the State argued that appellate counsel...

The court reversed the Court of Appeals’ determination that the defendant was entitled to a new trial based on the trial court’s alleged failure to recognize and address an impasse between the defendant and his attorney during trial. The court concluded that the record did not allow it to...

The trial court erred by requiring the defendant to proceed to trial pro se. On February 7, 2013, the defendant was determined to be indigent and counsel was appointed. On May 30, 2014, the defendant waived his right to assigned counsel, indicating that he wished to hire a private lawyer, Mr....

The trial court erred by requiring the defendant to proceed to trial pro se. On February 7, 2013, the defendant was determined to be indigent and counsel was appointed. On May 30, 2014, the defendant waived his right to assigned counsel, indicating that he wished to hire a private lawyer, Mr....

Because the trial court properly conducted the inquiry required by G.S. 15A-1242, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that his waiver of counsel, in connection with a probation violation hearing, was not knowing and voluntary. In addition to finding that the trial court’s colloquy with...

Where the defendant and counsel reached an impasse regarding whether to cross-examine the State’s DNA analyst witness on an issue of sample contamination in this child sexual assault case, the trial court did not did not violate the defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights by ruling that it would be...

Because the trial court did not take a proper of waiver of counsel, the defendant was entitled to a new trial. The State conceded error, noting that the defendant had not been advised of the range of permissible punishments as required by G.S. 15A-1242.

The trial court erred by requiring the defendant to proceed pro se. After the defendant was indicted but before the trial date, the defendant signed a waiver of the right to assigned counsel and hired his own lawyer. When the case came on for trial, defense counsel moved to withdraw, stating...

The trial court erred by requiring the defendant to proceed pro se. After the defendant was indicted but before the trial date, the defendant signed a waiver of the right to assigned counsel and hired his own lawyer. When the case came on for trial, defense counsel moved to withdraw, stating...

Where appointed counsel was allowed to withdraw, on the sixth day of a bribery trial, pursuant to Comment 3, Rule 1.16(a) of the N.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, the trial court was not required to appoint substitute counsel. Comment 3 states in relevant part:

Difficulty may...

Because defendant engaged in repeated conduct designed to delay and obfuscate the proceedings, including refusing to answer whether he wanted the assistance of counsel, he forfeited his right to counsel. Citing State v. Leyshon, 211 N.C. App. 511 (2011), the court began by holding that...

Because defendant engaged in repeated conduct designed to delay and obfuscate the proceedings, including refusing to answer whether he wanted the assistance of counsel, he forfeited his right to counsel. Citing State v. Leyshon, 211 N.C. App. 511 (2011), the court began by holding that...

The defendant was competent to stand trial and to represent himself. As to competency to stand trial, the defendant had several competency evaluations and hearings; the court rejected the defendant’s argument that a report of the one doctor who opined that he was incompetent was determinative of...

State v. Hunt, 367 N.C. 700 (Dec. 14, 2014)

The court affirmed per curiam that aspect of the decision below that generated a dissenting opinion. In the decision below, State v. Hunt, 221 N.C. App. 489 (July 17, 2012), the court of...

Because the defendant would not allow the trial to proceed while representing himself, the trial court did not err by denying the defendant the right to continue representing himself and forcing him to accept the representation of a lawyer who had been serving as standby counsel.

Based on assessments from mental health professionals and the defendant’s own behavior, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by ruling that the defendant was competent to represent himself at trial.

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court failed to make the proper inquiry required by G.S. 15A-1242 before allowing him to proceed pro se, concluding that the defendant’s actions “absolved the trial court from this requirement” and resulted in a forfeiture of the right...

The trial court did not err by allowing the defendant to waive his right to counsel and proceed pro se. Notwithstanding the defendant’s refusal to acknowledge that he was subject to court’s jurisdiction, the trial court was able to conduct a colloquy that complied with G.S. 15A-1242. The court...

The trial court erred by allowing the defendant to proceed pro se at a probation revocation hearing without taking a waiver of counsel as required by G.S. 15A-1242. The defendant’s appointed counsel withdrew at the beginning of the revocation hearing due to a conflict of interest and the trial...

The defendant forfeited his right to counsel where he waived the right to appointed counsel, retained and then fired counsel twice, was briefly represented by an assistant public defender, repeatedly refused to state his wishes with respect to representation, instead arguing that he was not...

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying an indigent defendant’s request for substitute counsel. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by failing to inquire into a potential conflict of interest between the defendant and counsel, noting that the...

The trial court did not err by failing to appoint counsel for the defendant after his case was remanded from the appellate division and before ordering the defendant to submit to a capacity to proceed evaluation. The court held: “the trial court’s order committing defendant to a competency...

Although the trial court misstated the maximum sentence during the waiver colloquy, it adequately complied with G.S. 15A-1242. The trial court twice informed the defendant that if he was convicted of all offenses and to be a habitual felon, he could be sentenced to 740 months imprisonment, or...

The trial court did not err by denying defense counsel’s motions to withdraw and for the appointment of substitute counsel. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that he and his trial counsel experienced “a complete breakdown in their communications” resulting in ineffective assistance of...

The trial court did not err by denying defense counsel’s motions to withdraw and for the appointment of substitute counsel. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that he and his trial counsel experienced “a complete breakdown in their communications” resulting in ineffective assistance of...

The trial court did not err when taking the defendant’s waiver of counsel. The trial court complied with the statute and asked the standard waiver questions in the judges’ bench book. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the waiver was invalid because the trial judge did not inform...

No violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel occurred when the trial court found that the defendant forfeited his right to counsel because of serious misconduct and required him to proceed pro se. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that Indiana v. Edwards...

(1) No violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel occurred when the trial court found that the defendant forfeited his right to counsel because of serious misconduct and required him to proceed pro se. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that Indiana v. Edwards...

The defendant was denied his right to counsel at a suppression hearing. The suppression hearing was a critical stage. Although the trial court recorded waivers of counsel prior to the hearing, the waivers were not valid because the trial court failed to inform the defendant of the maximum...

The court admonished defense counsel for exceeding the bounds of zealous advocacy. In attacking the professionalism and ethics of the prosecutors, counsel said that the prosecutor “failed to investigate the truth”; “distort[ed] the truth”; “misled and misrepresented facts”; “subverted the truth...

The court declined to consider the defendant’s pro se MAR on grounds that he was represented by appellate counsel. It noted that having elected for representation by appointed counsel, the defendant cannot also file motions on his own behalf or attempt to represent himself; a defendant has no...

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the defendant’s motion to replace his court-appointed lawyer. Substitute counsel is required and must be appointed when a defendant shows good cause, such as a conflict of interest or a complete breakdown in communications. However, general...

Based on the trial court’s extensive colloquy with the defendant, the trial court properly took a waiver of counsel in compliance with G.S. 15A-1242.

An absolute impasse did not occur when trial counsel refused to abide by the defendant’s wishes to pursue claims of prosecutorial and other misconduct that counsel believed to be frivolous. Under the absolute impasse doctrine counsel need only abide by a defendant’s lawful instructions with...

The trial court committed reversible error by requiring the defendant to proceed pro se in a probation revocation hearing when the defendant had waived only the right to assigned counsel not the right to all assistance of counsel.

In a per curiam opinion, the court affirmed State v. Anderson, 215 N.C. App. 169 (Aug. 16, 2011) (holding that the trial court erred by allowing the defendant to waive counsel after accepting a waiver of counsel form but without complying with G.S. 15A-1242; among other things, the...

The trial court committed reversible error by allowing the defendant to proceed pro se without conducting the inquiry required by G.S. 15A-1242. 

State v. Choudhry, 365 N.C. 215 (Aug. 26, 2011)

Although the trial court’s inquiry of the defendant was insufficient to assure that the defendant knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to conflict free counsel, because the defendant failed to show that counsel’s performance was adversely affected by the conflict, he is not...

The trial court erred by allowing the defendant to waive counsel after accepting a waiver of counsel form but without complying with G.S. 15A-1242. Significantly, on the waiver form the defendant checked the box waiving his right to assigned counsel, not the box waiving his right to all...

The trial court erred by permitting the defendant to waive counsel and proceed pro se at a probation revocation hearing without first satisfying the requirements of G.S. 15A-1242. The court concluded that even though the defendant executed two Waiver of Counsel forms (AOC-CR-227), one of which...

State v. Phillips, 365 N.C. 103 (June 16, 2011)

(1) Investigators did not violate the capital defendant’s constitutional right to counsel by continuing to question him after an attorney who had been appointed as provisional counsel arrived at the sheriff’s office and was denied access to the defendant. The interrogation began before the...

State v. Phillips, 365 N.C. 103 (June 16, 2011)

The trial court did not err by failing to inquire into defense counsel’s alleged conflict of interest and by failing to obtain a waiver from the defendant of the right to conflict-free counsel. According to the defendant, the conflict arose when it became apparent that counsel might have to...

Because the defendant’s lawyer adopted the defendant’s pro se filing under G.S. 15A-711 by submitting evidence to the trial court in support of it, the trial court properly considered the pro se filing, made while the defendant was represented by counsel.

The trial court did not err by allowing the defendant to proceed pro se where the defendant forfeited his right to counsel. In July 2007, the defendant refused to sign a waiver of counsel form. At a Jan. 2008 hearing, the court twice advised the defendant of his right to counsel and repeatedly...

The trial court did not err by considering the defendant’s pro se speedy trial motion, filed when he was represented by counsel.

Because a SBM hearing is not a criminal proceeding to which the right to counsel applies, the defendant cannot assert an ineffective assistance of counsel claim as to counsel’s performance at such a hearing.

This capital case came back before the N.C. Supreme Court after that court remanded in State v. Lane,362 N.C. 667 (Dec. 12, 2008) (Lane I), for consideration under Indiana v. Edwards, 554 U.S. 164 (2008), as to whether the trial judge should have exercised discretion...

(1) Because the trial court failed to comply with the statutory mandates of G.S. 15A-1242, 122C-268(d), and IDS Rule 1.6, the respondent’s waiver of counsel in his involuntary commitment hearing was ineffective. The court adopted language from State v. Moore, 362 N.C. 319, 327-28 (2008...

The court noted in dicta that ineffective assistance of counsel claims are not available in civil appeals, such as that from an SBM eligibility hearing.

(1) The defendant’s waiver of counsel was sufficient even though a box on the waiver form was left blank and the form was executed before the court advised the defendant of the charges and the range of punishment. Citing State v. Heatwole, 344 N.C. 1, 18 (1996), and State v. Fulp...

The trial court erred by ruling that the defendant forfeited his right to counsel. The defendant’s first lawyer was allowed to withdraw because of a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship. His second lawyer withdrew on grounds of conflict of interest. The defendant’s third lawyer was...

Defendant’s forfeiture of his right to counsel did not carry over to his resentencing, held after a successful appeal. To determine the life of a forfeiture of counsel the court adopted the standard for life of a waiver of counsel (a waiver is good and sufficient until the proceedings are...

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the defendant’s request for substitute counsel where there was no evidence that the defendant’s constitutional right to counsel was violated. The defendant waived the right to appointed counsel and retained an attorney. The day after the...

The trial court did not err in allowing the defendant to represent himself after complying with the requirements of G.S. 15A-1242. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that his conduct during a pre-trial hearing and at trial indicated that he was mentally ill and not able to represent...

When the defendant and trial counsel reached an absolute impasse regarding the use of a peremptory challenge to strike a juror, the trial court committed reversible error by not requiring counsel to abide by the defendant’s wishes. “It was error for the trial court to allow council’s decision to...

The trial court’s action denying the defendant’s mid-trial request to discharge counsel and proceed pro se was not an abuse of discretion and did not infringe on the defendant’s right to self-representation. Prior to trial, the defendant waived his right to counsel and standby counsel was...

A defendant does not have a right to be represented by someone who is not a lawyer.

In a capital case, the trial court did not err by removing second-chair counsel, who was re-appointed by Indigent Defense Services, after having been allowed to withdraw by the trial court. Nor did the trial court err by failing to ex mero motu conduct a hearing on an unspecified conflict of...

The trial court did not err by failing to rule on the defendant’s pro se motions, made when the defendant was represented by counsel.

Trial court erred by allowing the defendant to dismiss counsel and proceed pro se mid-trial without making the inquiry required by G.S. 15A-1242.

In this Wake County case, defendant appealed his convictions for forcible rape, sex offense, kidnapping, various assault charges, and interfering with emergency communication, arguing (1) he was deprived of his right to autonomy in the presentation of his defense, (2) he was deprived of...

In this Robeson County case, defendant appealed his conviction for driving while impaired (DWI), arguing error in denying his motion to dismiss and ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals dismissed defendant’s argument regarding the motion to dismiss, and found no ineffective...

In this Stanly County case, defendant appealed the trial court’s ruling that he forfeited his right to counsel. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

Defendant pleaded guilty to first degree kidnapping, second degree rape, and second degree burglary in December of 2017. However, due to a...

In this Davidson County case, defendant appealed his conviction for felony fleeing to elude arrest, arguing (1) error in finding he had waived or forfeited his right to counsel and (2) plain error by allowing the State to introduce foundationless expert testimony by a law enforcement officer...

In this Davidson County case, defendant appealed his convictions for two counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon, arguing error in (1) denying his motion for new counsel because his appointed attorney was blind, (2) failing to intervene ex mero motu during his cross examination, and (...

In this Onslow County case, defendant appealed his conviction for first-degree murder, arguing error in (1) denial of his right to counsel, (2) denial of his motion to continue, and (3) allowing a witness to testify about unrelated allegations against him. The Court of Appeals found no error. ...

In this Gates County case, defendant appealed his conviction for first-degree murder, arguing (1) ineffective assistance of counsel, and error in (2) jury instructions and (3) failing to intervene ex mero motu during the State’s closing argument. The Court of Appeals found no...

In this Wake County Case, defendant appealed the denial of his motion for appropriate relief (MAR), arguing ineffective assistance of appellate counsel. The Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of his MAR. 

This matter has a complicated procedural history, outlined by the court in pages 2-...

In this Johnston County case, defendant appealed his convictions for assault with a deadly weapon and attempted robbery, arguing error in the denial of defense counsel’s motion to withdraw, and ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals found no error and dismissed the ineffective...

In this Wayne County case, defendant appealed judgments for possession of heroin and cocaine and resisting a public officer, arguing error in failing to order a competency hearing sua sponte and ineffective assistance of counsel. Defendant’s appellate counsel also filed a brief under ...

In this Mecklenburg County case, defendant appealed his conviction of trafficking in fentanyl by possession, arguing error in the trial court’s failure to instruct defense counsel to call an out-of-state witness. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

An officer from the Cornelius Police...

In this Guilford County case, defendant appealed his convictions for communicating threats and assault charges, arguing abuse of discretion in denying his motion for a mistrial based on the late disclosure of discoverable material, and ineffective assistance of counsel by implicitly conceding...

In this Haywood County case, defendant appealed his convictions for multiple felony and misdemeanor child abuse offenses, arguing a range of issues related to sentencing and errors by the trial court, as well as possible ineffective assistance of counsel. The Court of Appeals agreed with...

In this Duplin County case, the Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing on whether defendant consented to defense counsel’s admissions of guilt.

Defendant was charged with breaking or entering, larceny, and possession of stolen goods after a series...

In this Alamance County case, defendant appealed his conviction for first-degree murder, arguing ineffective assistance of counsel and error by the trial court admitting lay witness opinion testimony. The Court of Appeals found no ineffective assistance of counsel and no prejudicial error by the...

In this Pitt County case, defendant appealed his conviction for willingly resisting, delaying, or obstructing a public officer; the Court of Appeals found no error by the trial court.

In September of 2019, two officers from the Winterville Police Department responded to a disturbance at a...

In this Edgecombe County case, two defendants, Defendant W and Defendant P, were jointly tried, and appealed their convictions for robbery with a dangerous weapon and felon in possession of a firearm. The Court of Appeals found no prejudicial error for either defendant and affirmed the...

In this Onslow County case, defendant appealed the denial of his motion for appropriate relief (“MAR”) due to ineffective assistance of counsel. In July of 2015, defendant went to jury trial for sexual offenses with a minor and was convicted. After the trial, defendant sent a letter to the trial...

In this Edgecombe County solicitation to commit murder case, the trial court did not err (1) in resolving the defendant’s request for substitute counsel; (2) by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence; and (3) by declining to intervene ex mero motu in the State’s...

The defendant was indicted for seven crimes arising from a domestic violence incident. The defendant severely beat his wife, resulting in her being hospitalized for six days where she was treated for extensive swelling and bruising to face and neck, fractures to rib bones and bones around her...

In this Pasquotank County case, the defendant was convicted at trial of statutory rape and abduction of a child. (1) During the first day of trial, the defendant complained about his attorney and claimed to have repeatedly fired him during the case. In response, the trial court allowed the...

State v. Applewhite, ___ N.C. App. ___, 2021-NCCOA-694 (Dec. 21, 2021) review granted, ___ N.C. ___, 871 S.E.2d 511 (May 4 2022)

In this human trafficking case involving multiple victims, (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the defendant to represent himself; (2) the indictments were sufficient to convey subject matter jurisdiction; (3) the trial court did not err by entering judgments for...

Following defense counsel’s opening statements in a Possession with Intent to Sell or Deliver Heroin and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia case where the defendant was indicted as a habitual felon, the State expressed concern that defense counsel had made admissions necessitating a ...

In this Lincoln County case, the defendant’s trial counsel also represented the City of Lincolnton. Lincolnton police officers investigated and charged the defendant and testified at his trial. After the charge conference, the defendant expressed concerns about his attorney’s potential conflict...

The defendant was charged with first degree burglary after she was found inside the victims’ home in the early morning hours, having taken items from their cars and placed them inside a purse belonging to one of the homeowners. The defendant appeared to be impaired at the time she was arrested....

The defendant was indicted for stalking, violating a domestic violence protective order, and making a false report to law enforcement. The state gave notice of two statutory aggravating factors under G.S. 15A-1340.16(d)(5) (disrupting enforcement of laws) and 1340.16(d)(15) (taking...

In this sex offense case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the defendant’s motion for a mistrial and instead giving a curative instruction to the jury in response to the State’s objectionable questioning of a witness.  Defense counsel did not admit the defendant’s guilt...

Defendant was convicted in December 2016 of trafficking in opium or heroin and related offenses He appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury that possession pursuant to a valid prescription was a defense to trafficking by possession. The Court of Appeals in...

State v. Chavez, 270 N.C. App. 748 (Apr. 7, 2020) rev’d in part on other grounds, 378 N.C. 265, 2021-NCSC-86 (Aug 13 2021)

This Mecklenburg County case involved charges of attempted first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit first-degree murder, and assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury. The defendant and two other men (one of whom was unidentified) entered the victim’s home and...

This Pitt County case involved charges of attempted first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury (“AWDWIKISI”) and felony breaking or entering. Before trial, the defendant signed a document allowing his attorney to argue that he was guilty of...

The defendant, a lawful permanent resident, was charged with various drug offenses and pled guilty under Alford to the charges of possession of heroin and maintaining a vehicle or dwelling, for which the trial judge imposed a two-year suspended sentence. About one year into his sentence...

In this child sex offense case, because the record was insufficient to allow review of the defendant’s claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, the court dismissed the appeal without prejudice to the defendant’s right to pursue the claim in a motion for appropriate...

The court declined to address the defendant’s claim that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when his lawyer failed to object to and agreed to the admission of a hearsay statement and failed to request a jury instruction on the ultimate user exception to the Control Substances Act. The...

In this second-degree murder and armed robbery case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to ensure the jury knew that the State’s key witness, Damon Bell, could have been but was not charged with first-degree murder in the case. The defendant...

In this assault case tried as a bench trial, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that he received ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) when his lawyer failed to assert and argue self-defense. The defendant filed a MAR with his direct appeal, asserting the IAC claim. Finding that it...

Considering the merits of the defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim on direct appeal from his conviction of felony assault, the court held that the defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel when trial counsel consented to a mistrial at the first trial. Analyzing...

Finding the record in this child sexual assault case insufficient to rule on the defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the court denied the claim without prejudice to the defendant’s right to assert it in a MAR proceeding. The defendant argued that he received ineffective...

On an appeal from an adverse ruling on the defendant’s motion for appropriate relief (MAR) in this murder case, the court held that because the defendant’s attorney made an objectively reasonable determination that the defendant’s uncle would qualify as his “guardian” under G.S. 7B-2101(b) and...

In this attempted murder and assault case, the court rejected the defendant’s claim that his lawyer rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to the introduction of testimony about street gangs. The court rejected the assertion that there was no strategic reason for trial counsel to...

State v. Curry, 256 N.C. App. 86 (Oct. 17, 2017)

(1) The court rejected the defendant’s assertion that counsel was ineffective by failing to state for the record details of an absolute impasse between himself and counsel. Although the defendant initially wanted counsel to make certain admissions in opening statements to the jury, after...

State v. Meadows, 256 N.C. App. 124 (Oct. 17, 2017) modified and affirmed on other grounds, 371 N.C. 742 (Dec 7 2018)

(1) In this drug case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that she received ineffective assistance of counsel when defense counsel elicited damaging testimony from a law enforcement officer that a witness was “honest.” Declining to address whether counsel’s conduct constituted deficient...

The court rejected the defendant’s argument that trial counsel was deficient by failing to give notice to the State of the defendant’s intention to offer an alibi witness. The defendant had argued that trial counsel’s failure was a violation of the discovery rules and resulted in the trial court...

Counsel was not ineffective by failing to allege a Fourth Amendment violation in a motion to suppress a warrantless blood draw. Here, no prejudice occurred under the Strickland test because there was sufficient evidence for a conviction based driving while under the influence of an...

(1) Counsel did not render ineffective assistance by failing to object to a witness’s expert testimony. The expert testified that the fire was intentionally set with the use of an accelerant. The defendant’s trial defense did not challenge this issue but rather focused on whether the State had...

In this attempted felony breaking or entering and habitual felon case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel did not attempt to introduce certain items into evidence. The defendant failed to show that counsel’s...

In this sex offense case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that he received ineffective assistance of counsel when counsel failed to object to 404(b) evidence that was properly admitted.

State v. Cook, 246 N.C. App. 266 (Mar. 15, 2016)

(1) In this murder case, counsel’s statement in closing argument did not exceed the scope of consent given by the defendant during a Harbison inquiry. In light of the Harbison hearing, the defendant knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily, and with full knowledge of the...

State v. Cook, 246 N.C. App. 266 (Mar. 15, 2016)

The Harbison standard did not apply to counsel’s comments regarding the “dreadfulness” of the crimes because these comments were not concessions of guilt. Considering these statements under the Strickland standard, the court noted that counsel pointed out to the jury that while...

In this murder case, trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance by failing to produce evidence, as promised in counsel’s opening statement to the jury, that the shooting in question was justified or done in self-defense. After the trial court conducted a Harbison inquiry,...

In this murder case, trial counsel did not render ineffective assistance by failing to produce evidence, as promised in counsel’s opening statement to the jury, that the shooting in question was justified or done in self-defense. After the trial court conducted a Harbison inquiry,...

(1) Because the defendant had ample time to investigate, prepare, and present his defense and had failed to show that he received ineffective assistance of counsel by the trial court’s denial of his motion to continue, the trial court did not err by denying defense counsel’s motion to withdraw...

In this appeal from a motion for appropriate relief (MAR), the court held that advice provided by the defendant’s counsel in connection with his plea did not comply with Padilla v. Kentucky, 559 U.S. 356 (2010) (incorrect advice regarding the immigration consequences of a guilty plea...

(1) Where appointed counsel moved, on the sixth day of a bribery trial, for mandatory withdrawal pursuant to Rule 1.16(a) of the N.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing withdrawal upon counsel’s citation of Comment 3 to Rule 1.16 as grounds...

Where appointed counsel was allowed to withdraw, on the sixth day of a bribery trial, pursuant to Comment 3 of Rule 1.16(a) of the N.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that private counsel retained after this incident was presumptively ineffective given...

Without addressing the deficient performance prong of the Strickland test, the court held that the defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel where he was not prejudiced by counsel’s conduct. The defendant had complained of counsel’s failure to object to a law...

The trial court erred by ordering, under threat of contempt, that defense counsel’s legal assistant appear as a witness for the State. The State served the assistant with a subpoena directing her to appear to testify on the weeks of Friday, November 8, 2013, Monday, December 2, 2013, and Monday...

(1) Even if counsel provided deficient performance by informing the trial court, with the defendant’s consent, that the defendant wanted to go to trial and “take the chance that maybe lightning strikes, or I get lucky, or something,” no prejudice was shown. (2) The court declined the defendant’s...

In an attempted murder case, counsel did not commit a Harbison error when he stated during closing argument: “You have heard my client basically admit that while pointing the gun at someone, he basically committed a crime: Assault by pointing a gun.” Because assault by pointing a gun is...

State v. King, 235 N.C. App. 187 (July 15, 2014)

No error occurred when the trial court denied defense counsel’s request for an overnight recess after having to defend himself against the State’s motion for contempt based on an allegation that counsel violated the court’s order regarding the rape shield rule in connection with his examination...

State v. King, 235 N.C. App. 187 (July 15, 2014)

No error occurred when the trial court denied defense counsel’s request for an overnight recess after having to defend himself against the State’s motion for contempt based on an allegation that counsel violated the court’s order regarding the rape shield rule in connection with his examination...

State v. Rouse, 234 N.C. App. 92 (May. 20, 2014)

The defendant was denied his constitutional right to counsel when the trial court held a resentencing hearing on the defendant’s pro se MAR while the defendant was unrepresented. The court vacated the judgment and remanded for a new sentencing hearing.

Considering the defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim on appeal the court rejected his contention that counsel was ineffective by eliciting hearsay evidence that conflicted with his claim of self-defense, concluding that the evidence did not contradict this defense. It also...

The defendant was not denied effective assistance of counsel in a case where defense counsel had a meeting with the State’s witnesses in which they offered to drop the charges against the defendant in exchange for compensation. Defense counsel cross-examined the witnesses extensively about their...

The court dismissed the defendant’s claim that counsel’s trial strategy constituted ineffectiveness under Strickland. This claim was dismissed without prejudice to the defendant’s right to assert the claim in a Motion for Appropriate Relief.

In a murder case, trial counsel did not impermissibly concede the defendant’s guilt under Harbison. Although defense counsel never explicitly conceded the defendant’s guilt during trial, she did make factual concessions, including admitting that the defendant was present at the shooting...

Counsel was ineffective by failing move to suppress evidence obtained by a “patently unconstitutional seizure.” The State conceded that the evidence was obtained illegally but argued that counsel’s failure to move to suppress could have been the result of trial strategy. The court rejected this...

In Re C.W.N., 227 N.C. App. 63 (May. 7, 2013)

(1) On direct appeal, the court rejected the juvenile’s assertion that counsel’s failure to make a closing argument in a delinquency proceeding was per se ineffective assistance. (2) In a delinquency case in which the juvenile was alleged to have assaulted another child, the court rejected the...

The defendant was entitled to a new trial where the trial court proceeded to trial over the defendant’s objection to continued representation by appointed counsel who had previously represented one of the State’s witnesses. At a pretrial hearing the State informed the trial court that defense...

In an appeal from a conviction obtained in the Eve Carson murder case, the court held that counsel did not commit a Harbison error (unconsented to admission of guilt by counsel). Even taken out of context, the remark at issue did not even approach a concession of guilt.

State v Canty, 224 N.C. App. 514 (Dec. 18, 2012)

Counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to file what would have been a meritorious motion to suppress.

Citing Lafler v. Cooper, 566 U.S. 156 (2012) (defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance by advising a defendant to reject a plea offer), the court dismissed without prejudice the defendant’s claim that defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance by advising him to reject a...

When a defendant discharges counsel and proceeds pro se, he or she may not assert a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel with regard to his or her own representation.

State v. Hunt, 221 N.C. App. 489 (July 17, 2012) aff’d per curiam, 367 N.C. 700 (Dec 19 2014)

Although counsel provided deficient performance in this sexual assault case, the defendant was not prejudiced by this conduct and thus the defendant’s claim of ineffective assistance of counsel must fail. The defendant argued that counsel was ineffective when he asked the defendant on direct...

The trial court did not err by removing the defendant’s retained counsel, Wayne Eads, based on the possibility that Eads might be called to testify as a witness at trial. The defendant was charged with attempted murder and felony assault. The defendant was having an affair with the victim’s wife...

The court rejected the defendant’s Harbison claim (it is ineffective assistance of counsel for a defense lawyer to concede guilt without the defendant’s consent) where defense counsel raised the admission with the trial court before it was made and the defendant consented to counsel’s...

The court dismissed the defendant’s Harbison claim without prejudice to it being raised in a motion for appropriate relief. During closing argument, defense counsel stressed that the defendant was a drug user, not a drug dealer. With regard to a charge of possession of drug...

Although concluding that counsel admitted the defendant’s guilt to the jury, the court dismissed the defendant’s Harbison claim without prejudice to his right to file a motion for appropriate relief on that basis in the trial court. Counsel conceded guilt to resisting a public officer...

The court dismissed the defendant’s Harbison claim without prejudice in order for it to be raised by way of a motion for appropriate relief in the trial division. As to a charge of resisting an officer, defense counsel had argued to the jury that “[T]he elements are there. They were...

In a sex offense case, the defendant received ineffective assistance of counsel when counsel failed to object to the prosecutor’s motion in limine to exclude specific reference to a prior DSS hearing and/or to clarify the evidence regarding that hearing. At the prior hearing the district court...

The trial court did not err by appointing counsel for the defendant where there was no clear and unequivocal waiver. The defendant refused to answer whether he waived or asserted his right to counsel and made contradictory statements on the issue. He stated: “I’m not waiving my right to...

(1) Defense counsel did not commit a Harbison error during the habitual felon proceeding by admitting that the defendant had pled guilty to three felonies. Although defense counsel admitted the defendant’s prior convictions, he never argued that the jury should find that the defendant...

The trial court’s denial of a motion to continue in a murder case did not violate the defendant’s right to effective assistance of counsel. The defendant asserted that he did not realize that certain items of physical evidence were shell casings found in defendant’s room until the eve of trial...

In a child sexual assault case, defense counsel’s failure to move to strike testimony of a forensic interviewer that the fact that a young child had extensive sexual knowledge suggested that “something happened,” did not constitute deficient performance.

The defendant’s claim that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to a videotape of the defendant’s interrogation was properly considered on appeal. Although the defendant asked the court to dismiss his claim without prejudice to raise it in a motion for appropriate relief, he failed...

(1) The defendant’s claim that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to object to a videotape of the defendant’s interrogation fails because even if counsel had objected, the objection would have been overruled when the defendant opened the door to the evidence through his own trial testimony...

Because defense counsel admitted the defendant’s guilt to assault with a deadly weapon and involuntary manslaughter to the jury without obtaining the defendant’s express consent, counsel was per se ineffective under State v. Harbison, 315 N.C. 175 (1985). A majority of the panel...

Holding that the defendant willfully obstructed and delayed court proceedings by refusing to cooperate with his appointed attorneys and insisting that his case would not be tried; he thus forfeited his right to counsel. The defendant’s lack of cooperation lead to the withdrawal of both of his...

No Harbison error occurred in this murder case where the defendant consented, on the record, to counsel’s strategy of admitting guilt.

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