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Tag Archives: Criminal Practice

Criminal Practice – Search & Seizure – Traffic Stop – Reasonable Suspicion – 65 Lbs. of Marijuana (access required)

State v. Williams Given the driver’s inability to articulate where she was coming from or going to, the conflict in the defendant-passenger’s and the driver’s stories of being family, an absent third party’s ownership of the SUV, and defendant’s and the driver’s consistency with aspects of the drug courier profile (such as the SUV’s dark tinted windows and the use of an interstate highway), a sheriff’s deputy had a reasonable suspicion sufficient to justify a search of the SUV.

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Criminal Practice – Evidence – Confession – Corpus Delicti Rule – Trustworthiness – Jury Instructions (access required)

State v. Sweat The state’s only substantive evidence of four sexual offenses were defendant’s written confession to two instances of fellatio with the minor victim and his oral confession to four such instances. The state satisfied the corpus delicti rule by showing that defendant had ample opportunity to commit the crimes, he confessed to details likely to be known only to the perpetrator, incidents of fellatio fit within the pattern of defendant’s other crimes against the victim, and the victim related four incidents of fellatio to third parties in extrajudicial statements.

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Criminal Practice – Evidence – Repressed Memories – Expert Testimony (access required)

State v. King Even though the trial judge found an expert’s testimony to be relevant and to be admissible under Howerton v. Arai Helmet, Ltd., 358 N.C. 440, 597 S.E.2d 674 (2004), the judge could nevertheless exclude the expert’s testimony under N.C. R. Evid. 403 when the judge found the testimony to be more prejudicial than probative.

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Criminal Practice – Second-Degree Murder – Jury Instructions – Felony Murder – Child Abuse (access required)

State v. Barrow Where our Court of Appeals held, Since the state's evidence would have permitted the jury to find that defendant did not use a deadly weapon but still killed the five-month-old victim with malice, the trial court properly instructed the jury on the offense of second-degree murder, we affirm.

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Criminal Practice – Plain Error Standard – Sexual Abuse – Expert Testimony (access required)

State v. Towe In the absence of physical evidence of sexual abuse in this case, the only bases for expert witness Dr. Everett’s conclusory assertion that the victim had been sexually abused were the victim’s history as relayed to Dr. Everett by the victim’s mother and the victim’s statements to a social worker that were observed by Dr. Everett — evidence that, standing alone, is insufficient to support an expert opinion that a child was sexually abused. Therefore, Dr. Everett’s expert testimony was improper when she stated that the victim fell into the category of children who had been sexually abused but showed no physical symptoms of such abuse.

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Criminal Practice – DWI – Sentencing – Aggravating Factor — $1,000 Damage – Blakeley – Harmless Error – Restitution (access required)

State v. Wood Even though the trial court should have allowed the jury to decide the aggravating-factor issue of whether defendant’s negligence led to an accident causing more than $1,000 in property damage, the voir dire testimony of the victim of that accident clearly established that the damage to his vehicle could be repaired for approximately $1,600. The trial court’s error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

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Criminal Practice – Murder — Evidence – Circumstantial – DNA at Crime Scene (access required)

State v. Carver At the time the victim’s strangled body was discovered beside her car on the bank of the Catawba River, defendant was fishing a short distance away and had been there for several hours. Defendant repeatedly denied ever touching the victim’s vehicle, but DNA found on the victim’s car was, with an extremely high probability, matched to defendant. Under State v. Miller, 289 N.C. 1, 220 S.E.2d 572 (1975), the state’s circumstantial evidence was sufficient to survive defendant’s motion to dismiss.

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Criminal Practice – Subject Matter Jurisdiction – Habitual Felon Indictment – Subsequent Offenses – Felony Classification – Attempted Bribery of a Juror (access required)

State v. Ross Defendant was originally indicted for having attained the status of a habitual felon in connection with a weapons possession charge, but the habitual felon charge came before the trial court, not in connection with the weapons charge, but in connection with offenses which defendant had committed months after the habitual felon indictment was issued. The trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to accept defendant’s plea of guilty to having attained the status of a habitual felon.

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