Tuesday, November 19, 2013

COA Update, Nov. 19, 2013

Interesting Cases Only:

State v. Chukwa. -- Sunny John Chukwa, Mecklenburg County. No error to hold second competency hearing after lawyer said only communication he has with client is client saying, "It is in god's hands."

State v. Shannon. -- Michael Shannon, Swain County.

Sufficient evidence of intimidating a witness where Defendant threatened a therapist, demanding they write a letter to DSS regarding his mental status. Ruled that the statute covers prospective witnesses (over dissent).

State v. Northington.  -- Vincent Northington, Onslow County.

Evidence that items, without more, is sufficient to prove felony breaking and entering (intent to commit larceny) and, on these facts, no entitltement to an instruction on misdemeanor breaking and entering (no intent to commit larceny).

Friday, November 8, 2013

NC Supreme Court Criminal Decisions, Nov. 8. 2013

State v. Cox.-- Reversing the COA grant of relief in a possession of firearm by felon case. Ronald Cox.

Facts: During a stop, police find a gun in a car, with four people in it. Tell them if no one takes the gun charge they'll all be arrested. Defendant says it's his. He is charged with possession of firearm by a felon.

History: Decision Below, State v. Cox

COA reversed on corpus delecti grounds. NCSC remanded in light of State v. Sweat, which said that  defendant's confession alone could prove guilt if "the accused’s confession is supported by substantial independent evidence tending to establish its trustworthiness.” COA ruled that, in light of Sweat the case should still be overturned, as there were no corroborating circumstances to the Defendant's confession other than that he owned a gun.

Supreme Court Reversed. Corpus delecti requires corroborative evidence that a crime was committed-- it need not corroborate that the defendant is the guilty party. Here, the presence of the gun was sufficient corroboration of the confession to allow conviction.

State v. Heien. Per curiam affirmed -- Nicholas Heien.
COA Opinion Post: State v. Heien. Appeal of remaining issues (previously COA found a stop had no reasonable suspicion for a stop, but the NCSC reversed and sent it back on the rest of the issues) in a cocaine case.

First, defendant challenges the search on ground of undue prolongment of detention during traffic stop. Driver was stopped for a brake light violation. While giving a warning ticket, the officer observed the defendant being "nervous" in the back seat. After giving the warning, another officer checked defendant's ID for warrants, questioned about contraband, then asked to search. Permission was given and things were found.

Held: This was not undue prolongment, as defendant would have felt free to leave and the entire stop only lasted 13 minutes (prior to consent).
State v. Huss. Per curiam affirmance (3-3, no precedential value) -- Wayne Huss.
COA Opinion Post: State v. Huss. Appeal of kidnapping, sex offense and rape convictions.

Defendant and victim met at self-defense martial arts classes taught by the defendant. During breakup, sex occurred. Victim reports rape, defendant alleges it was consensual.

Held: Trial court erred in failing to dismiss the charges.  A rape/sex offense can only be found if: (1) force is used; or (2) the victim is "physically helpless"--defined as unconscious or physically unable to resist.

The court instructed on physical helpless theory of rape, but no evidence was presented that the victim was physically helpless: she was never unconscious and is otherwise able-bodied. The mere fact that defendant was trained martial artist and much bigger than the victim does not mean she was "physically helpless."


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

NC Court of Appeals Update, Nov. 5, 2013

Interesting Cases Only:

State v. James. --- Wayne County, Kelvin James. Although the court found a prima facie showing of racial discrimination in jury selection, the Court continues its streak of never finding a Batson violation in any North Carolina case. Must be cause it never happens.

State v. May. -- Alamance County, Floyd May, Sr.

Court erred in instructing deadlocked jury, after third "deadlocked note," when he said, "I’m going to ask you, since the people have so much invested in this, and we don’t want to have to redo it again, but anyway, if we have to we will." Reference to the time/cost associated with the trial is coercive and violates NCGS 15A-1235. Also, when a judge gives any part of 1235(b), he or she must give them all.

Of note: no error to allow expert pediatrician to testify that the child in this case (a sex case) exhibited symptoms of consistent with sexual abuse.

New trial.