Friday, November 5, 2010

NC Supreme Court Rules in State v. Waring

Today, the NC Supreme Court issued one criminal decision in the case of State v. Byron Waring.

Byron Waring was sentenced to death in July 2007 in Wake County. Byron Waring, a black man, was convicted for the rape and murder by stabbing of a white woman. Defendant had a cognitive disorder and a schizotypal personality disorder, as well as borderline intellectual functioning. The jury found the presence of three aggravating factors: committed during a rape; for pecuniary gain, and that the murder was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. The jury found 4 statutory mitigating factors: that it was committed under duress (Waring's co-defendant was the leader), acting under the domination of another person, capacity to conform his conudct to the law was diminished, and that he aided in the apprehension of his co-defendant. The jury also found in mitigation that the defendant suffered from borderline intellectual functioning and cognitive impairments. Nonetheless, the jury found that the aggravators outweighted the mitigators and sentencing Mr. Waring to death.

First, no error in failure to suppress his prior confessions. Found that Waring voluntarily went with police and voluntarily was questioned. Thus, no interrogation and no Miranda problem.

Second, while the state used its peremptory challenges to exclude blacks from the jury, the court found that there were legitimate bases for such use, as one juror gave questionable support to the death penalty and another because the prosecutor was "concerned that she didn't watch the news." The state struck 50% of eligible black jurors. The court found that this number wasn't so high as "to suggest a systematic effort" to exclude blacks.

Court also reviewed other issues and found no error.

Of interesting note, this is yet another case where blacks were struck at a much higher rate than white and no finding of Batson error. While every litigant knows that race is taken in account in jury selection, still no appellate court has ever granted Batson relief.

No prima facie showing for Batson challenge.

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