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

Navigate using the table of contents to the left or by using the search box below. Use quotations for an exact phrase search. A search for multiple terms without quotations functions as an “or” search. Not sure where to start? The 5 minute video tutorial offers a guided tour of main features – Launch Tutorial (opens in new tab).

E.g., 04/19/2024
E.g., 04/19/2024
(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this Buncombe County case, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals that the trial court committed prejudicial error in admitting an officer’s testimony that the defendant was driving his moped when it crashed. The Supreme Court noted that a warrant application for the...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The court reversed a decision by the court of appeals in State v. Nabors, 207 N.C. App. 463 (Oct. 19, 2010) (the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss drug charges when the evidence that the substance at issue was crack cocaine consisted of lay opinion testimony...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this capital case, the trial court did not commit plain error by admitting lay opinion testimony by an eyewitness. When the eyewitness was asked about the defendant’s demeanor, she stated: “He was fine. I mean it was -- he had -- he knew what he was doing. He had it planned out. It was a --...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

An officer’s testimony that a substance found on a vehicle looked like residue from a car wash explained the officer’s observations about spots on the vehicle and was not a lay opinion. The officer properly testified to a lay opinion that (1) the victims were not shot in the vehicle, when that...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The court, per curiam and without an opinion, reversed the ruling of the North Carolina Court of Appeals and held, for the reasons stated in the dissenting opinion below, that the trial judge erred in allowing a detective to offer a lay opinion that 55 grams of a white powder was cocaine. The...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this Cleveland County case, defendant appealed his convictions for first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and attempted robbery, arguing (1) error in denying his motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence based upon the impossibility of a witness’s testimony, and (2) inadequate...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this Buncombe County case, defendant appealed his convictions for driving while impaired and reckless driving, arguing (1) there was insufficient evidence that he was driving the vehicle, and (2) error in denying his motion to suppress the results of a warrantless blood draw. The Court of...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this Nash County case, defendant appealed his convictions for discharging a weapon into occupied property inflicting serious injury and possession of a firearm by a felon, arguing that the trial court erred by (1) allowing lay opinion testimony by police officers, (2) denying defendant’s...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this Beaufort County case, defendant appealed his possession of marijuana and marijuana paraphernalia convictions, arguing the trial court erred by admitting hearsay testimony and denying his motion to dismiss for insufficient evidence. The Court of Appeals found harmless error in admitting...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this first-degree murder and discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle in operation case, the Court of Appeals determined that the trial court did not commit reversible error on evidentiary issues and that there was no cumulative error.  Defendant was jealous of Demesha Warren’s...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this Wilson County case, the defendant was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder related to a dispute arising out of a card game. Though the defendant told the victim he was going to kill him, and though multiple witnesses saw the defendant shoot the victim, the defendant...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

A man owned a trailer containing various catering equipment used for his business and stored the trailer on the business’s property adjacent to Sheetz. In the last week of August 2016, he drove past the property and saw that the trailer was gone. He contacted the police department, and a...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

(1) In this murder case, the trial court did not err by instructing the jury on the doctrine of acting in concert where there was evidence that the defendant and another man met together at a store, discussed with the defendant’s brother that the victim owed the brother money, received...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The defendant was convicted of possession of a firearm by a felon, three counts of assault with a deadly weapon and seven counts of discharging a firearm into an occupied vehicle based on an incident in which he chased two women from his house and fired at the car of a Good Samaritan who stopped...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The defendant was convicted after a jury trial of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder, and other serious felony charges after he shot and killed his former girlfriend and then pistol-whipped and fired a gun at another woman, a registered nurse. The defendant argued...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The defendant was convicted of first-degree murder based on felony murder, attempted first-degree murder, felonious discharge of a firearm into an occupied vehicle in operation, and two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. The defendant’s brother was the shooter and was convicted...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this felony death by vehicle case, the trial court committed reversible error by admitting lay opinion testimony identifying the defendant as the driver of the vehicle, where the expert accident reconstruction analyst was unable to form an expert opinion based upon the same information...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

(1) In this indecent liberties with a child case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court committed plain error by allowing the victim’s mother to vouch for the victim’s credibility. An individual informed the victim’s mother that the victim said that the defendant had...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this felon in possession of a firearm case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing an officer to identify a person depicted in a surveillance video as being the defendant. The officer testified that while he had never had any direct contact with the defendant he knew who the...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this drug case, the court held that although the trial court erred by allowing lay opinion testimony identifying the substance at issue as crack cocaine based on a visual identification, the error was not prejudicial where the State presented expert testimony, based on a scientifically valid...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this child sexual assault case, the trial court did not commit plain error by allowing the defendant’s wife to testify regarding “red flags” that she should have seen earlier regarding the defendant’s conduct with the victim. In context, the witness was not offering an opinion as to the...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this murder and possession of a firearm by a felon case, the trial court did not commit plain error by allowing the admission of an investigator’s testimony concerning the defendant’s demeanor. At trial, the investigator, who had interviewed the defendant, was asked to clarify why he thought...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this case involving breaking and entering, larceny and other charges, the trial court did not err by failing to exclude the testimony of two law enforcement officers who identified the defendant in a surveillance video. The officers were familiar with the defendant and recognized distinct...

(Dec. 31, 1969) rev’d on other grounds, 368 N.C. 869 (Jun 10 2016)

In this cyberbullying case based on electronic messages, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the investigating detective to testify that while investigating the case, he took screen shots of anything that appeared to be evidence of cyberbullying. The defendant argued that...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this child sexual assault case the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing the victim’s mother to testify about changes she observed in her daughter that she believed were a direct result of the assault. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that this testimony was improper...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In this felony child abuse case, the trial court did not commit plain error by admitting testimony from an investigating detective that the existence of the victim’s hairs in a hole in the wall of the home where the incident occurred was inconsistent with defendant’s account of the incident,...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In a burglary and felony larceny case, an officer properly offered lay opinion testimony regarding a shoeprint found near the scene. The court found that the shoeprint evidence satisfied the Palmer “triple inference” test:

[E]vidence of shoeprints has no legitimate or...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

An officer properly gave lay witness testimony. In a case where data from the defendant’s electronic monitoring device was used to place him at the crime scene, the officer-witness testified regarding the operation of the device and tracking data retrieved from the secured server. When...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In a murder case, the trial court did not err by excluding testimony of Susan Strain, a licensed social worker. Strain worked with the defendant’s step-father for several years and testified that she occasionally saw the defendant in the lobby of the facility where she worked. The State objected...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In an assault with a deadly weapon on a law enforcement officer case, the trial court did not err by allowing the officer to give lay opinion regarding the weight of a kitchen chair (the alleged deadly weapon) that the defendant threw at him. The officer’s observation of the chair and of the...

(Dec. 31, 1969) rev’d on other grounds, 367 N.C. 147 (Nov 8 2013)

The trial court did not err by allowing the two officers to identify the green vegetable matter as marijuana based on their observation, training, and experience.

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The trial court did not err by permitting detectives to offer lay opinions that a substance found on a lawn chair used to beat the victim was blood. One detective testified that there was blood in the driveway and that a lawn chair close by had blood on it. He based this conclusion on his 7...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The trial court did not commit plain error by admitting an officer’s lay opinion testimony identifying the defendant as the person depicted in a videotape. The defendant argued that the officer was in no better position than the jury to identify the defendant in the videotape. However, the...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

No plain error occurred when the trial court allowed a detective to give lay opinion testimony that items were purchased with a stolen credit card and it looked like someone had tried to hide them; subtotals on a store receipt indicated that the credit card was stolen; blood was present on...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The trial court did not commit plain error by allowing a detective to identify the defendant as the person shown in a still photograph from a store’s surveillance tapes. The detective observed the defendant in custody on the morning that the photo was taken, affording him the opportunity to see...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The trial court did not err by allowing a lay witness to testify that the defendant was impaired. The witness formed the opinion that the defendant was impaired because of the strong smell of alcohol on him and because the defendant was unable to maintain balance and was incoherent, acting...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In a case arising from a pharmacy break-in, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by failing to dismiss trafficking in opium charges because the State did not present a chemical analysis of the pills. Citing State v. Ward, 364 N.C. 133 (2010), and ...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

Although Rule 704 allows admission of lay opinion evidence on ultimate issues, the lay opinion offered was inadmissible under Rule 701 because it was not helpful to the jury. In this case, a detective was asked: After you received this information from the hospital, what were your next steps?...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

 In a felony death by vehicle case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by sustaining the State’s objection when defense counsel asked the defendant whether he would have been able to stop the vehicle if it had working brakes. Because a lay opinion must be rationally based on the...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

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. The detective testified that as a result of officer training, he was able to recognize the...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In a sexual exploitation of a minor and indecent liberties case, the trial court did not err by allowing lay opinion testimony regarding photographs of a five-year-old child that formed the basis for the charges. None of the witnesses perceived the behavior depicted; instead they formed opinions...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

It was error to allow officers, who were not proffered as experts in accident reconstruction and who did not witness the car accident in question, to testify to their opinions that the defendant was at fault based on their examination of the accident scene. The court stated: “Accident...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

In a DWI/homicide case, the trial court erred by allowing a state’s witness to testify about ingredients and effect of Narcan. Although the state proffered the testimony as lay opinion, it actually was expert testimony. When the state called the witness, it elicited extensive testimony regarding...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The trial court did not err by admitting lay opinion testimony from an officer regarding whether, based on his experience in narcotics, he knew if it was common for a person selling drugs to have possession of both money and drugs. Officer also gave an opinion about whether a drug dealer would...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

Not mentioning Meadows and stating that notwithstanding Llamas-Hernandez, State v. Freeman, 185 N.C. App. 408 (2007), stands for the proposition that an officer may offer a lay opinion that a substance is crack cocaine.

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing an officer to give a lay opinion as to the value of a stolen Toyota truck in a felony possession trial. The officer had worked as a car salesman, was very familiar with Toyotas, and routinely valued vehicles as a police officer. He also...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

Citing Ward, discussed above under expert opinions, the court held that the trial judge erred by allowing a police officer to testify that he “collected what [he] believe[d] to be crack cocaine.” Controlled substances defined in terms of their chemical composition only can be identified...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The trial court committed reversible error by allowing a police officer to give a lay opinion identifying the defendant as the person depicted in a surveillance video. The officer only saw the defendant a few times, all of which involved minimal contact. Although the officer may have been...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The trial judge did not err by allowing officers to give lay opinion testimony that the cocaine at issue was packaged as if for sale and that the total amount of money and the number of twenty-dollar bills found on the defendant were indicative of drug sales. The officers’ testimony was based on...

(Dec. 31, 1969)

The trial judge erred in allowing a detective to offer lay opinion testimony regarding whether what was depicted in crime scene surveillance videos was consistent with the victim’s testimony. For example, the detective was impermissibly allowed to testify that the videotapes showed a car door...

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