Tuesday, August 3, 2010

NC Court of Appeals Decisions (August 3, 2010)

State v. Clayton. Defendant appeals order to enroll in satellite-based monitoring. Trial court held an SBM hearing in 2008 and found defendant did not have to enroll. Then, in 2009, during a probation violation hearing, the court revisited the issue and found that he did have to enroll.

Held: The court did not have any basis, as part of a probation violation hearing, to conduct another SBM hearing, where it had already held one on the same reportable conviction.

State v. Frazier. Reversed expungement. Defendant was convicted of accessory after the fact with an offense date 1995. The court granted expungement under N.C.G.S 14-50.30. However, that statute only applies to offenses committed after Dec. 1, 2008. As such, expungement was without legal basis.

State v. Headen. Defendant appeals on Batson issue. Defendant made a Batson objection and the trial court ruled there was no prima facie showing of racial discrimination. The state had exercised 2 strikes--one against a white juror and one against the only black juror in the panel. The state, without prompting of the court, indicated the reason for the strike was the jurors tattoos and baggy jeans.

Court ruled that the state's race-neutral reason was facially valid and not rebutted by the defense.

State v. Inman. Appeal dismissed, as no written notice of appeal was filed.

State v. Mobley. State entered evidence of a call placed from the booking area of jail.

First, defendant objects that it was not authenticated. Court ruled sufficient evidence of authentication (to get to a jury) under 901 where voice sounded like defendant (jury can judge voices for itself), was to a number that defendant later called from inside jail.

Second, the call was permissible to admit as a business record exception to hearsay under rule 803(6) by record custodian, Sergeant Brantley (note: only the other voices on the call need a hearsay exception; once it is authenticated as defendant, his voice is not hearsay. Also, the other voices can arguably be admitted as non-hearsay if offered only for context of the defendant's words).

State v. Oxendine
. Another SBM case. Vacated as defendant had a low risk assessment, inconsistent with court's finding that "defendant required the highest possible level of supervision." Click here for extended discussion of NC SBM law.

State v. Sargeant. Appeal on 1st degree murder, kidnapping, robbery, and burning of personal property.

Primary Issue: Did the trial court err in accepting partial verdicts from the jury? At the end of the first day, the jury said it had not reached verdicts on all charges. The judge had the jury enter verdicts on the charges they did agree on, so the jury submitted verdicts on kidnapping, robbery, and burning, and first degree murder under theory of lying in wait and felony murder, but needed more time on 1st degree murder by p&d. The next day, a new verdict form was given to the jury solely on the issue of p&d. Later that day, they returned a verdict of guilty.

Held: Trial court erred by taking partial jury verdicts. This intrusion on the province of the jury cannot be deemed harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

New trial.

Secondary Issues: 1) Court erred when it barred defendant from entering statement under the residual hearsay exception. The statement was of a co-defendant to police (who took the 5th at trial) saying that the co-defendant snitch in the case was the leader and murderer, not the defendant.

Judge Ervin dissents.

State v. Wright
. Appeal of felony obstruction of justice for failing to complete true campaign finance forms with the State Board of Elections.

Held: Defendant's conduct meets the definition of common law obstruction of justice.

The BOE uncovered that defendant, then a member of the state legislature, failed to disclose over 150K in campaign contributions and 76K in transfers from his campaign account to himself.

Obstruction of justice is "'At common law it is an offense to do any act which prevents, obstructs, impedes or hinders public or legal justice. The common law offense of obstructing public justice may take a variety of forms " Here, the knowing filing of false campaign reports count, as the purpose of such reports is to make the data available for voter's review and the BOE to review. By filing false ones, defendant knew he was blocking the BOE and the public from uncovering his improper activities.

No ex post facto problem, as this is old common law.

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