Wednesday, April 18, 2012

NC Supreme Court Decisions, April 13, 2012

State v. Paul Lewis.

Held: Defendant entitled to a new trial.

First, the trial court improperly refused to allow the defendant to cross the lead detective about how he had tampered with the jury at the first trial (the first trial conviction was reversed due to the lead detective's jury tampering).

Second, defendant may cross the investigators, on retrial, about victim identifying a co-defendant as well as the defendant, who later had his charges dropped due to an alibi.

 Third, no error in admitting the witnesses identification of a knife found in defendant's home as the weapon, even though the state lost the evidence, as their is only speculation that testing the knife would result in some sort of exculpatory evidence.

Fourth, additional hearings required on in court ID suppression motion, as some evidence suggests that the line-up was unduly suggestive: one witness said it had 7 pictures, 3 of which were the defendant.

State v. David Lawrence.

Clarified plain error standard (standard of review when no objection is made at trial):

In this case, in granting relief, the court of appeals described plain error as: "the party asserting error bears the burden of“demonstrating that such error was likely, in light of the entire charge, to mislead the jury.”

Other formulations from other cases:
  • "“It was highly plausible that the jury could have reached a different result"
  • “a different result probably would not have been reached absent the error"
  • "so grave as to deny a fundamental right of the defendant so that, absent the error, the jury would have reached a different result"
  • holding that any error was harmless and thus not plain error
Normal Error: where there's an objection, requires reversal if:
  1. The court wrongly denied a timely objection that was properly preserved
  2. The error was not harmless: the reviewing court cannot say the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The state bears the burden of showing harmless if it is a constitutional objection; the defendant bears the burden if it not a constitutional objection.
Certain errors of fundamental fairness, require reversal without such showing, as harm is presumed.

Plain Error: when there's no objection or the objection did not properly preserve the issue, requires reversal if:
  1. Defendant bears the burden to show that
  2. A fundamental error occurred at trial--that it had a "probable impact on the jury's finding that the defendant was guilty" and must "seriously affect the fairness, integrity, or public reputation of judicial proceedings.
Reversed here, finding that the trial court's erroneous jury instructions did not constitute plain error.

State v. Robert Joe. Digged.

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