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., 02/25/2024
E.g., 02/25/2024

In this Rowan County case, the Supreme Court majority affirmed the Court of Appeals decision upholding the exclusion of evidence offered by defendants to show other individuals committed the crimes for which defendants were convicted. Defendants were jointly tried and convicted of first-degree...

This Davidson County case involved the sexual abuse of a girl at ages 10 and 13. The defendant was the child’s grandfather. In addition to assaulting the child, the defendant also abused the child’s mother, his daughter. The child’s mother reportedly traded sex with her daughter for drugs from...

In this capital case, the trial court did not err by allowing the State to elicit testimony that defense counsel had previously hired the State’s expert to testify on behalf of another client. The defendant argued that this allowed the State to improperly vouch for its expert’s credibility. The...

State v. Jacobs, 370 N.C. 661 (Apr. 6, 2018)

On discretionary review of a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 798 S.E.2d 532 (2017), the court reversed, holding that at the trial court erred by excluding defense evidence of the victim’s history of STDs. The case involved allegations that the defendant had sexual...

State v. Young, 368 N.C. 188 (Aug. 21, 2015)

In this murder case the court held that the court of appeals erred by concluding that the trial court committed reversible error in allowing into evidence certain materials from civil actions. The relevant materials included a default judgment and complaint in a wrongful death suit stating that...

State v. Triplett, 368 N.C. 172 (Aug. 21, 2015)

Reversing the court of appeals in this murder and robbery case, the court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by prohibiting the defendant from introducing a tape-recorded voice mail message by the defendant’s sister, a witness for the State, to show her bias and attack her...

State v. King, 366 N.C. 68 (June 14, 2012)

The court affirmed State v. King, 214 N.C. App. 114 (Aug. 2, 2011) (holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding the State’s expert testimony regarding repressed memory under Rule 403). The trial court had concluded that although the expert’s testimony was “...

State v. Waring, 364 N.C. 443 (Nov. 5, 2010)

In a capital murder case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the State to introduce for illustrative purposes 18 autopsy photographs of the victim. Cynthia Gardner, M.D. testified regarding her autopsy findings, identified the autopsy photos, and said they accurately...

State v. Jacobs, 363 N.C. 815 (Mar. 12, 2010)

Holding that State v. Wilkerson, 148 N.C. App. 310, rev’d per curiam, 356 N.C. 418 (2002) (bare fact of the defendant’s conviction, even if offered for a proper Rule 404(b) purpose, must be excluded under Rule 403), did not require exclusion of certified copies of the victim’s...

In this Carteret County case, defendant appealed his conviction for first-degree murder, arguing (1) insufficient evidence, (2) error in admitting numerous gruesome photos of the body, and (3) error in allowing several statements by the prosecutor during closing argument. The Court of Appeals...

In this Rockingham County case, defendant appealed his convictions for statutory rape, indecent liberties with a child, and sex act by a substitute parent or guardian, arguing error in admitting expert testimony that the victim’s testimony was not coached, in granting a motion in limine...

The defendant was convicted of first-degree murder, assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury, and attempted first-degree murder. The opinion describes in detail the beatings inflicted with a bat by the defendant and two others on the deceased and her fiancé, who...

In this first-degree murder case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 403 by admitting the victim’s skeletal remains, specifically her skull, ribs, and femur. The court considered each set of bones, starting with the skull. It noted that admission of a homicide victim’s skull...

State v. Alonzo, ___ N.C. App. __, 819 S.E.2d 584 (Aug. 21, 2018) modified and affirmed on other grounds, ___ N.C. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (Feb 28 2020)

In this child sexual assault case, the trial court did not err by finding that the defendant’s proffered testimony was not relevant. The defendant was charged with committing sexual acts on his daughter Sandy while home from the military on compassionate leave. At trial, the defendant attempted...

In this drug trafficking case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court abused its discretion under Rule 403 by admitting statements made by a confidential informant about the defendant’s distribution of drugs to a law enforcement officer for the limited purpose of...

In this murder case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting photographs of the victim and crime scene. The trial court allowed the State to introduce approximately 20 photographs depicting various angles and details of the crime scene and the victim’s location and injuries....

State v. West, 255 N.C. App. 162 (Aug. 15, 2017)

When a trial court properly determines, pursuant to Evidence Rule 403, that the probative value of evidence about a victim’s sexual history is substantially outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice, the trial court does not err by excluding the evidence, regardless of whether it falls...

When a trial court properly determines, pursuant to Evidence Rule 403, that the probative value of evidence about a victim’s sexual history is substantially outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice, the trial court does not err by excluding the evidence, regardless of whether it falls...

Even if a psychiatrist was not testifying as an expert, the trial court nevertheless acted within its discretion by excluding his testimony under Rule 403.

In this child sexual assault case, the trial court did not err by precluding the defendant from cross-examining the State’s expert witness about information in the treatment records regarding the child’s sexual activity with partners other than the defendant. The defendant unsuccessfully sought...

(1) In this sexual assault case, the trial court did not err by excluding the defendant’s evidence that the victim had previously been sexually active that her parents punished her for this activity. The defendant did not argue that the victim’s past sexual activity was admissible under one of...

State v. Ford, 245 N.C. App. 510 (Feb. 16, 2016)

In this voluntary manslaughter case, where the defendant’s pit bull attacked and killed the victim, the trial court did not err by admitting a rap song recording into evidence. The defendant argued that the song was irrelevant and inadmissible under Rule 403, in that it contained profanity and...

In this sexual assault case involving allegations that the defendant, a high school wrestling coach, sexually assaulted wrestlers, the trial court abused its discretion by excluding, under Rule 403, evidence that one of the victims was biased. The evidence in question had a direct relationship...

In this sexual assault case involving allegations that the defendant, a high school wrestling coach, sexually assaulted wrestlers, the trial court erred by excluding evidence that one of the victims was biased. The defendant sought to introduce evidence showing that the victim had a motive to...

In this sexual assault case involving allegations that the defendant, a high school wrestling coach, sexually assaulted wrestlers, the trial court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 403 by admitting 404(b) evidence that the defendant engaged in hazing techniques against his wrestlers. The...

(1) In this child sex case, evidence that the victim was discovered watching a pornographic video, offered by the defendant to show the victim’s sexual knowledge, is not evidence of sexual activity barred by the Rape Shield Statute. (2) Evidence offered by the defendant of the child victim’s...

In this sexual offense with a student case, the trial court committed reversible error by concluding that the defendant’s evidence was per se inadmissible under the Rape Shield Rule. The case involved charges that the defendant, a substitute teacher, had the victim perform oral sex on him after...

State v. Bishop, 241 N.C. App. 545 (June 16, 2015) rev’d on other grounds, 368 N.C. 869 (Jun 10 2016)

In this cyberbullying case based on electronic messages, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by admitting into evidence the defendant’s Facebook posts that, among other things, stated that “there’s no empirical evidence that your Jesus ever existed.” The...

In this murder case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the probative value of a recorded telephone call made by the defendant to his father was substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice. During the call, the defendant’s father asked: “Now who you done shot now?”...

The trial court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 403 by admitting the defendant’s recorded interview with a police detective. Noting that the fact that evidence is prejudicial to the defendant does not make it unfairly so, the court concluded that the evidence’s probative value was not...

In a rape case, the trial court erred by excluding defense evidence that the victim and her neighbor had a consensual sexual encounter the day before the rape occurred. This prior sexual encounter was relevant because it may have provided an alternative explanation for the existence of semen in...

In a first-degree murder trial, the trial court did not err by admitting a jail letter that the defendant wrote to an accomplice in “Crip” gang code. In the letter, the defendant asked the accomplice to kill a third accomplice because he was talking to police. Rejecting the defendant’s argument...

In a first-degree murder trial, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by declining to exclude, under Rule 403, evidence of the defendant’s mid-trial escape attempt. The court reasoned: “[T]he jury may have inferred from the fact that defendant attempted to escape that defendant was guilty...

In an armed robbery case, the trial court did not err by admitting three photographs of the defendant and his tattoos, taken at the jail after his arrest. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the photographs should have been excluded under Rule 403 because they showed him in a jail...

In this multiple murder case the trial court properly admitted crime scene and autopsy photographs of the victims’ bodies. Forty-two crime scene photos were admitted to illustrate the testimony of the crime scene investigator who processed the scene. The trial court also admitted crime scene...

In this murder case, the trial court committed reversible error by excluding, under Rule 403, testimony by a defense expert that certain incriminating computer files had been planted on the defendant’s computer. Temporary internet files recovered from the defendant’s computer showed that someone...

State v. Jones, 223 N.C. App. 487 (Nov. 20, 2012) aff’d, 367 N.C. 299 (Mar 7 2014)

In an identity theft case where the defendant was alleged to have used credit card numbers belonging to several victims, the trial court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 403 by admitting evidence that the defendant also was in possession of debit and EBT cards belonging other persons to...

In the context of an appeal from a contempt proceeding, the court held that by asking the victim at trial about a possible prior instance of rape between the victim and a cousin without first addressing the relevance and admissibility of the question during an in camera hearing, defense counsel...

The trial court committed plain error during the habitual felon phase of a trial by admitting into evidence plea transcripts for the defendant’s prior felony convictions without redacting irrelevant information pertaining to the defendant's prior drug use, mental health counseling, and lenient...

The trial court did not err by sustaining the State’s objection under the Rape Shield Statute. After the victim had already testified that she was unsure whether her aborted child was fathered by the defendant or her boyfriend, the defense questioned a witness in order to show that the victim...

(1) In a child sex case, the trial judge did not err by limiting the defendant’s cross-examination of the prosecuting witness regarding inconsistent statements about her sexual history, made to the police and medical personnel. The evidence did not fit within any exception to Rule 412. The court...

The trial court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 403 by admitting a recording of phone calls between the defendant and other persons that were entirely in Spanish. The defendant argued that because there was one Spanish-speaking juror, the jurors should have been required to consider only...

The trial court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 403 by admitting, for purposes of corroboration, a testifying witness’s prior consistent statement. The court noted that although the statement was prejudicial to the defendant’s case, mere prejudice is not the determining factor under Rule...

The trial court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 403 by admitting the defendant’s statement to an arresting officer that if the officer had come later the defendant “would have been gone and you would have never saw me again.”

In a murder case involving a shooting, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing a detective to give lay opinion testimony concerning the calibers of bullets recovered at the crime scene. Although the testimony was prejudicial, the trial judge correctly ruled that its probative...

In a homicide case in which the defendant asserted self-defense, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by admitting evidence that the defendant had been selling drugs in the vicinity of the shooting and was affiliated with a gang. The evidence showed that both the defendant and the victim...

The trial court did not commit plain error under Rules 401 or 403 by admitting photographs of the murder victim’s body. The trial court admitted 28 photographs and diagrams of the interior of the home where the victim was found, 12 of which depicted the victim’s body. The trial court also...

Admission of the defendant’s statements did not violate Evidence Rule 410 where it did not appear that the defendant thought that he was negotiating a plea with the prosecuting attorney or with the prosecutor’s express authority when he made the statements at a court hearing. Instead, the...

G.S. 15A-1025 (the fact that the defendant or counsel and the prosecutor engaged in plea discussions or made a plea arrangement may not be received in evidence) was violated when the prosecutor asked the defendant whether he was charged with misdemeanor larceny as a result of a plea bargain.

Following State v. Little, 191 N.C. App. 655 (2008), and State v. Jackson, 139 N.C. App. 721 (2000), and holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the State to introduce evidence of the defendant’s prior conviction in a felon in possession case where...

The trial court did not err in admitting four objected-to photographs of the crime scene where the defendant did not did not object to 23 other crime scene photographs, the four objected-to photographs depicted different perspectives of the scene and focused on different pieces of evidence, the...

Trial judge was not required to view a DVD before ruling on a Rule 403 objection to portions of an interview of the defendant contained on it. Trial judge did not abuse his discretion by refusing to redact portions of the DVD. However, the court “encourage[d] trial courts to review the content...

The trial judge did not err under Rule 403 in excluding evidence of the victim’s alleged false accusation that another person had raped her. The circumstances surrounding that accusation were different from those at issue in the trial and the evidence could have caused confusion.

The trial judge did not err under Rule 412 in excluding evidence of the victim’s prior sexual activity with a boy named C.T. and with her boyfriend. As to the activity with C.T., the defendant failed to offer evidence that it occurred during the in camera hearing (when the victim denied having...

In a child sex case, the defendant proffered evidence of a third person’s sexual abuse of the victim as an alternative explanation for the victim’s physical trauma. The trial judge properly excluded this evidence under Rule 412(b)(2) because it did not show that the third person’s abuse involved...

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