Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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At issue was the validity of the procedures prescribed in N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-1340.19A - 15A-1340.19(D) (the Act) for the sentencing of juveniles convicted of first-degree murder in light of Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460 (2012) and its progeny. Defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and other crimes he committed when he was sixteen years old. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for the murder conviction, a sentence that was then mandatory. After Miller was decided, the trial court resentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without parole. On appeal, Defendant challenged the constitutionality of the Act. The Court of Appeals upheld the constitutionality of the Act but reversed the resentencing judgment, concluding that the trial court failed to make adequate findings of fact to support its decision to impose the sentence. The Supreme Court modified and affirmed, holding (1) the Act does not incorporate a presumption in favor of a sentence of life without parole upon juveniles convicted of first-degree murder on the basis of a theory other than the felony murder rule; (2) the Act is not impermissibly vague, conducive to the imposition of arbitrary punishments, or an unconstitutional ex post facto law; and (3) further sentencing proceedings are required in this case. View "State v. James" on Justia Law

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There was sufficient evidence of restraint that was separate and apart from that inherent in the commission of Defendant’s first-degree sexual offense to support Defendant's second-degree kidnapping conviction. Defendant was convicted of several offenses, including felonious breaking or entering, first-degree sexual offense, second-degree kidnapping, misdemeanor assault inflicting serious injury, and intimidating a witness. The court of appeals vacated Defendant’s conviction for second-degree kidnapping, concluding that the evidence was insufficient to prove that any restraint was separate and apart from the force necessary to facilitate the sex offense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the State presented sufficient evidence of the element of restraint that was separate and apart from that inherent in the commission of the sex offense. View "State v. China" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals determining that the trial court did not err in excluding evidence of the complainant’s history of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) pursuant to N.C. R. Evid. 412(b)(2) where other evidence showed that Defendant was not infected with those STDs. Defendant was found guilty of first-degree sex offense with a child. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court erred by excluding evidence of the complainant’s history of STDs because its inclusion would have made sexual contact between the complainant and Defendant less likely, thereby qualifying for the Rule 412(b)(2) exception. The court of appeals disagreed, concluding that the exception was not applicable in this case. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Defendant’s offer of proof indicated that the STD evidence fell within the Rule 412(b)(2) exception, and therefore, the court of appeals erred in ruling that there was no error in the trial court’s exclusion of the evidence. View "State v. Jacobs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The General Assembly intended for N.C. Gen. Stat. 9-95(e)(3) of the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act, which provides that a Class 1 misdemeanor “shall be punished as a Class I felon[y]” when the misdemeanant has committed a previous offense punishable under the Act, to establish a separate felony offense rather than merely to serve as a sentence enhancement of the underlying misdemeanor. Pursuant to a plea agreement, Defendant pleaded guilty to a marijuana possession charge, acknowledged his prior convictions in violation of the Act, and admitted his habitual felon status. Although the marijuana possession charge was a Class 1 misdemeanor, the judge treated it as a Class I felony because of the prior conviction. Because of Defendant’s habitual felon status, the court punished the Class I felony as a Class E felony. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the substantive offense remained a class 1 misdemeanor, and consequently, Defendant’s habitual felon status could not be used to further enhance a sentence that was not itself a substantive offense. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court properly elevated Defendant’s possession of marijuana offense and then correctly punished that substantive Class I felony as a Class E felony on the basis of his habitual felon status. View "State v. Howell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The trial court erroneously instructed the jury when it omitted the relevant stand-your-ground provision from its instructions on self-defense, and Defendant was entitled to a new trial with proper self-defense and stand-your-ground instructions. Defendant was convicted of second-degree murder. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court’s “omission of a jury instruction that a person confronted with deadly force has no duty to retreat but can stand his ground” was error, or plain error. The court of appeals affirmed Defendant’s conviction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) by omitting the relevant stand-your-ground provision from the agreed-upon instructions on self-defense, the trial court’s jury instructions constituted preserved error; and (2) Defendant showed a reasonable possibility that, had the trial court included the stand-your-ground provision in its instructions, a different result would have been reached at trial. The Court remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial. View "State v. Lee" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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An indictment charging Defendant with obtaining property by false pretenses sufficiently identified the crime charge because it described the property obtained as “United States Currency” and named the items conveyed to obtain the money. Defendant was charged by indictment with, among other offenses, two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses. The trial court found Defendant guilty. The court of appeals vacated Defendant’s convictions for two counts of obtaining property by false pretenses, concluding that the indictment was fatally defective because the description of the property obtained fell short of the specificity required. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the indictment was facially valid because it gave Defendant reasonable notice of the charges against him and enabled him to prepare his defense; and (2) the state presented sufficient evidence of Defendant’s false representation that he owed the stolen property he conveyed. View "State v. Mostafavi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Despite Defendants’ nonexclusive control over a portion of the property where twenty-two marijuana plants were found growing, the State presented sufficient evidence of other incriminating circumstances to allow the case to go to the jury. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals, which reversed Defendants’ convictions for manufacturing marijuana, possession with intent to manufacture, sell or deliver marijuana, and felony possession of marijuana. The court of appeals determined that Defendants did not have exclusive possession of the potion of the property where the marijuana plants were found, and therefore, the State was required to show evidence of other incriminating circumstances to survive Defendants’ motion to dismiss for insufficiency of the evidence. The court of appeals concluded that the State failed to show other incriminating circumstances. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, notwithstanding Defendants’ nonexclusive possession of the location in which the contraband was found, there was evidence from which a jury could reasonably infer that Defendants knowingly possessed the marijuana plants. View "State v. Chekanow" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant failed to prove the materiality of his request for postconviction DNA testing of hair samples in his capital case. In denying Defendant’s motion for postconviction DNA testing, the trial court found that Defendant failed to show that there was no reasonable probability that the verdict would have been more favorable to him if the testing had been conducted and thus that the requested testing was material to his defense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that no reasonable probability existed under the facts of this case that the requested DNA testing would have changed the jury’s recommendation of death. View "State v. Lane" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that Defendant received adequate notice of his probation revocation hearing pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-1345(e). The trial court revoked Defendant’s probation and activated suspended sentences for crimes Defendant committed in August and September 2012. Defendant appealed, arguing that the probation violation reports filed by the State relating to Defendant’s probation for the August and September crimes, arguing that they did not give him adequate notice because they did not specifically state the condition of probation that Defendant allegedly violated. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court upheld the revocation of Defendant’s probation, holding (1) the “statement of the violations alleged” requirement in section 15A-1345(e) is satisfied by a statement of the actions that a defendant has allegedly taken that constitute a violation of a condition of probation; and (2) the probation violation reports in this case included a list of the criminal offenses that Defendant allegedly committed, and that list provided a statement of alleged acts by Defendant that, if proved, would violate a probation condition, as required by section 15A-1345(e). View "State v. Moore" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating Defendant’s conviction for first-degree sexual offense and remanding the matter for a new trial on the charge and reinstated Defendant’s conviction. The court of appeals concluded that there was insufficient evidence to submit to the jury an instruction on the theory that Defendant committed a first-degree sexual offense by being aided and abetted by another individual in the commission of the sexual act. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, based upon the court’s enunciated test used to establish the principle of aiding and abetting, the evidence was sufficient to allow the jury to be instructed on the theory of aiding and abetting because the evidence supported the conclusion that Defendant was aided and abetted by at least one other individual even where Defendant was the only individual in the room with the victim when the incident occurred. View "State v. Dick" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law