Saturday, December 13, 2008

NC Supreme Court Decisions (12/12/08)

Criminal Decisions of the NC Supreme Court. Full decisions available here.

Long Notes
State v. Taylor, 362 NC 514, Capital Case. Upholding the capital verdict, finding hat the failure of police to preserve crime scene photos that might have corroborated Defendant's theory of the case did not violate due process, as there was no evidence of bad faith; denied a Batson challenge, where the DA accepted two African-American jurors; finding no error in failure to instruct on 2nd degree murder; finding no error in instruction to jurors that they can consider flight as evidence of commission of murder; finding that state witnesses who gave impact testimony did not unfairly taint the jury by offering "fix-a-flat" to a juror who had a flat tire one evening; and denying other asserted grounds. Notably, in proportionality review, the Court distinguished this case from Benson, in which the court found that robbery killings where pecuniary gain is the only aggravator are not appropriate death cases, because Benson, unlike Taylor, pleaded guilty and waived the guilt-innocence phase--more proof that proportionality review is meaningless in NC.

State v. Lane, 362 NC 667, Capital Case. Remanded the case to Superior Court in light of Indiana v. Edwards, on issue of whether Defendant was competent to waive trial counsel-- in that gray area of Edwards where a Defendant is competent enough to stand trial under Dusky, but not enough to represent himself.

State v. Maready, 362 NC 614, Overturning the Court of Appeals suppression, the SC found reasonable suspicion to make a traffic stop, where another driver told police he saw the Defendant run stop lights and appear drunk; finding submission to jury of prior DWIs for purpose of proving malice in 2nd degree murder prosecution based on vehicular homicide, while possibly error, did not affect the jury's verdict; and finding admission of prior traffic convicts that were more than 16 years old was not plain error under 404(b) because Defendant, in addition to the old DWI, had 4 more recent DWIs. Further, the court limits Goodman to its facts and find that convictions that are 16 years old may be admissible if they are relevant to state of mind.

State v. Smith, 362 NC 583, Court of Appeals reversed a 1st degree sexual offense charge and sent back for re-trial an indecent liberties charge. SC found that, under the corpus delicti rule that the state may not rely solely on extrajudicial confessions and that there was not substantial independent evidence to corroborate the Defendant's confession. Strong corroboration is necessary where there is no proof of loss or injury (the victim denied the abuse occurred). As such, the conviction was reversed. The Court found instructions on the indecent liberty charge were appropriate and reversed the grant of a new trial on that issue. Remanded to Court of Appeals for remaining assignments of error.

State v. Williams, 362 NC 628. Upholding dismissal of case due to state's "flagrant violation" of constitutional rights by withholding evidence--under NCGS 15A-954(a)(4) requires dismissal where there is a flagrant violation resulting in irreprable prejudice to the Defendant's preparation of the case. Defendant, while incarcerated, sued the District Attorney for civil rights violations. He was moved to a different county jail and severely beaten by correctional officers. The Stanly County DA placed a poster on their wall with pictures of the defendant without bruises and one with bruises all over his face and a caption "After he sue'd the D.A.'s office." His attorney made requests and subpoenaed a copy of this poster to use in defense of his assault on a corrections officer case. The DA did not respond. ADA Higdon later admitted the existence of the poster and its destruction.

Short Notes
State v. Corbett, 362 NC 672. Per curiam affirmance.

State v. Duncan, 362 NC 665. Capital Case Reversing Court of Appeals IAC finding without prejudice to re-asserting that claim in a MAR.

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