Sunday, March 22, 2009

NC Supreme Court Decisions (3/20/09)

NC Supreme Court Criminal Decisions

Notably, the Court did not hand down a decision on the Medical Board Case--regarding the authority of the medical board to discipline doctors for participating in executions. The moratorium lives on...

Discussion of Cases of Note

State v. Garcell, capital verdict appeal, no error in wide variety of issues.

Jury Selection: Trial Court refused to strike for cause juror who admitted during voir dire that she knew the Defendant's ex-girlfriend and had spoken with her about Defendant's arrest; knew the victim's son, who was a friend of her husband's from high school, but hadn't seen him in six years; and met the victim previously, but hadn't seen her in 18 years. Court found that Defendant failed to preserve his challenge. To preserve, you must: (1) exhaust your peremptory challenges; (2) renew motion, stating that you either used a peremptory challenge on this juror or would have but for not having any left; and (3) have that renewed motion denied. The Court here is unclear, but it appears that the Defendant exhausted his peremptory challenges and renewed his motion, which was denied, but did not specifically allege that he would have used a peremptory challenge, but didn't have any left.

No error where trial Court excused for cause three jurors whose answers indicated some reservation about the Death penalty.

No error in other issues, including MAR on IAC claims. One interesting issue, the Defense challenged the use of prior violent felonies as an aggravator where the felonies were committed before the age of 18, citing Roper v. Simmons (2005) (cruel and unusual to sentence to death for murders committed prior to age 18). The Court found that "inapposite to the instant case."

Upholding proportionality review, largely due to strangulation as means of death.

State v. Miller, the S.C. reversed the Court of Appeals and found that the jury reasonably convicted Defendant on theory of constructive possession where the crack was found within reaching distance of the Defendant, even though Defendant was not the owner or lessor of the home, others had possession and access to those areas where the drugs were found, Defendant did not appear nervous at time of arrest, and Defendant not observed to make motions consistent with hiding or throwing away the drugs. Justice Brady dissented.

Other Cases

State v. Lawrence, per curiam affirmance. See Court of Appeals decision here.

State v. Sellars, affirmed on sentencing issue, then went on in dicta to discuss the relation between insanity and the aggravator of knowing creation of great risk by means of hazardous weapon.

State v. Smith, digged by the court.

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