Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals vacating the judgment entered by the trial court convicting Defendant of possession of a firearm by a felon and having attained habitual felon status on the grounds that the trial court erred in instructing the jury that it could convict Defendant based upon a constructive possession theory that lacked sufficient evidentiary support. The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred by holding (1) challenges to jury instructions allowing juries to convict criminal defendants on the basis of legal theories that lack evidentiary support are not subject to harmless error analysis, and (2) even if such a harmlessness analysis were appropriate, there was a reasonable possibility that the outcome at Defendant’s trial would have been different had the trial court refrained from allowing the jury to convict Defendant on the basis of a constructive possession theory. Specifically, the Court held that there was not a reasonable possibility that, in the absence of the erroneous constructive possession instruction, the jury would have acquitted Defendant. View "State v. Malachi" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court modified and affirmed the decision of the court of appeals finding no error in Defendant’s convictions and sentences. The Court of Appeals held that Defendant waived her sentencing arguments because Defendant failed to voice any objection to her sentence or the sentencing proceedings in the trial court. The Supreme Court affirmed as modified, holding (1) Defendant waived her Eighth Amendment arguments by failing to raise them before the sentencing court; (2) Defendant’s nonconstitutional sentencing issues were preserved for appellate review by statute despite her failure to lodge a contemporaneous objection but were nonetheless meritless; and (3) discretionary review was improvidently granted as to Defendant’s ineffective assistance claim. View "State v. Meadows" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals upholding Defendant’s conviction for attempted murder, holding that Defendant’s motion to dismiss was improperly denied. A jury found Defendant guilty of attempted first-degree murder and solicitation to commit first-degree murder. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion to dismiss the attempted murder charge because there was “sufficient evidence of an overt act to permit the case to go to the jury.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Court of Appeals’ reliance upon cases from other jurisdictions, all of which had statutory frameworks different from this Court’s, provided inadequate support for its decision; and (2) the evidence did not show an “overt act” amounting to attempt as defined by North Carolina law. View "State v. Melton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals finding that the citation that charged the offense for which Defendant was convicted was legally sufficient to properly invoke the trial court’s subject-matter jurisdiction, holding that the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction to enter judgment in this criminal proceeding. Defendant was convicted of operating a motor vehicle when having an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment while alcohol remained in his system. On appeal, Defendant argued that the trial court lacked jurisdiction in this criminal matter because the citation purporting to charge him of the charged offense failed to allege all of its essential elements. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the citation included sufficient criminal pleading contents in order to properly charge Defendant with the misdemeanor offense for which he was found guilty. View "State v. Jones" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals concluding that the trial court committed prejudicial error in three of its rulings during the trial proceedings and that Defendant was entitled to a new trial, holding that the court of appeals erred in finding error on two of the three issues but properly found prejudicial error on the first issue. A jury found Defendant guilty of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the trial court committed prejudicial error by (1) omitting the relevant stand-your-ground language from jury instructions on self-defense, (2) excluding evidence at trial of specific incidents of the victim’s violent past conduct, and (3) denying Defendant’s motion to continue. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the Court of Appeals correctly found that Defendant was entitled to a new trial on the basis that the trial court committed reversible error in omitting the relevant stand-your-ground language from the jury instructions; but (2) the trial court did not err in excluding specific instances of the victim’s violent conduct or in denying Defendant’s motion to continue. View "State v. Bass" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals concluding that Defendant’s stipulation to a certain type of second-degree murder was an improper stipulation, holding that Defendant properly stipulated to the facts underlying his conviction and the conviction itself. As part of a plea agreement, Defendant stipulated to the sentencing worksheet showing his prior offenses, one of which was a second-degree murder conviction designated as a B1 offense. In so stipulating, Defendant acknowledged that the factual basis of his conviction involved general second-degree murder, a B1 classification, and did not implicate the exception for less culpable conduct involving an inherently dangerous act or omission or a drug overdose, a B2 classification. The court of appeals vacated the trial court’ judgment and set aside Defendant’s guilty plea, concluding that Defendant improperly stipulated to a matter of “pure legal interpretation.” The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant’s stipulation was properly understood to be a stipulation to the facts of his prior offense, and those facts supported the offense’s B1 classification; and (2) the trial court properly accepted the stipulation. View "State v. Arrington" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals awarding Defendant a new trial because of a plain error in a jury instruction on aiding and abetting, holding that the trial court erred in giving the aiding and abetting instruction but that the error did not amount to plain error. The jury convicted Defendant of several drug crimes. The Court of Appeals granted Defendant a new trial, holding that the trial court committed plain error in giving the aiding and abetting instruction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Court of Appeals erred in reasoning that, absent the improper aiding and abetting instruction, the jury probably would have reached a different result and erred in applying the correct stander for plain error; and (2) given the evidence of Defendant’s guilt, the trial court’s error in giving the aiding and abetting instruction did not amount to plain error. View "State v. Maddux" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The North Carolina Supreme Court held that the State failed to carry its burden of presenting sufficient evidence to support the trial court's decision to revoke defendant's probation based upon a finding that defendant willfully absconded probation. Therefore, the court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals. However, the court disavowed the portion of the opinion analyzing the pertinence of the fact that defendant's probationary term expired prior to the date of the probation violation hearing and holding "that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to revoke defendant’s probation after his case expired." View "State v. Krider" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court held that the court of appeals erred in reversing the trial court’s denial of Defendant’s motion to suppress, holding that the suppression motion contained sufficient findings of fact to support the trial court’s conclusion that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his juvenile rights pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-2101 before making certain incriminating statements. The court of appeals determined that the totality of the circumstances set forth in the record did not fully support the trial court’s conclusion that Defendant knowingly, willingly, and understandingly waived his juvenile rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the trial court’s findings of fact had adequate evidentiary support, and those findings supported the trial court’s conclusion that Defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his juvenile rights; and (2) in reaching a contrary conclusion, the court of appeals failed to focus upon the sufficiency of the evidence to support the trial court’s findings of fact and to give proper deference to those findings. View "State v. Saldierna" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held in this criminal case that while the claim asserted in Defendant’s motion for appropriate relief was not subject to the procedural bar established by N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-1419(a)(3), the trial court did not err by denying Defendant’s motion for the reasons stated by the court of appeals. The jury returned a verdict convicting Defendant of first-degree murder, and the trial court sentenced Defendant to a term of life imprisonment without parole. Defendant later filed a motion for appropriate relief asserting, among other things, that his constitutional right to effective, conflict-free trial counsel had been violated. The trial court denied Defendant’s motion after conducting an evidentiary hearing. The Supreme Court concluded that Defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel claim was not procedurally barred and overturned the trial court’s order denying Defendant’s motion for appropriate relief. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Defendant was not subject to the procedural bar created by N.C. Gen. Stat. 15A-1419(a)(3) with respect to his ineffective assistance of counsel claim; but (2) the trial court properly denied Defendant’s motion for appropriate relief. View "State v. Hyman" on Justia Law