Ask someone to identify an emerging area of interest related to motor vehicle law and chances are the person will mention drugged driving. Indeed, the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy in 2010 set a goal of reducing the prevalence of drug-impaired driving by 10 percent by 2015. People who work in the field frequently cite anecdotal evidence supporting the notion that driving while impaired by drugs is becoming more common. And they usually cite anecdotal evidence in support. Are they right? Are more people these days driving while impaired by drugs?
The court of appeals last year vacated Sandra Brice’s conviction for habitual misdemeanor larceny for stealing five packs of steaks valued at $70 from a Food Lion in Hickory. The reason? The indictment alleged the steak theft and Brice’s four prior convictions for misdemeanor larceny in a single count. That violated a statutory rule requiring that prior convictions be alleged in a separate count, and, in the court of appeals’ view, deprived the superior court of jurisdiction to enter judgment against Brice for habitual misdemeanor larceny, a felony offense. Earlier this month, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed the court of appeals and remanded the case for reinstatement of the trial court’s judgment. Read on to find out why.
Yesterday was opinion day at the court of appeals. And while it wasn’t officially designated as DWI opinion day, several of yesterday’s opinions resolve significant and recurring issues in DWI litigation. Today’s post will cover the highlights. Continue reading →
Sometimes it seems lawyers have a Latin phrase for everything: Self-represented litigants? They’re pro se. The thing speaks for itself? Res ipsa loquitur. Volunteer legal work? That’s pro bono to us.
While attorneys have had an English word and Latin phrase to describe this last category, many public attorneys in North Carolina have historically had no mechanism for actually doing it. That’s because, until last July, G.S. 84-2 prohibited district attorneys, public defenders, and others from “engag[ing] in the private practice of law.” A person practices law when he or she provides legal services for another, regardless of whether the person is compensated for the work. See G.S. 84-2.1.
Recent amendments to G.S. 84-2, however, allow some public attorneys who were previously disqualified to carry out certain types of pro bono legal work.
Darian Mosley’s sentence for second degree murder was vacated last week because the jury did not specify whether he acted with (1) hatred, ill-will or spite, (2) intentionally and without justification, or (3) a depraved heart when he shot and killed his girlfriend, Amy Parker, in April 2013. The court of appeals held in State v. Mosley that, without knowing the theory of malice that supported the verdict, the trial judge erred in sentencing Mosley as a Class B1 felon. The appellate court remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to sentence Mosley for a Class B2 felony. It also recommended actions for trial courts instructing juries in future murder cases.
While we wait to see what the North Carolina Supreme Court has to say in State v. Turner about the existing statute of limitations for misdemeanors, the General Assembly has amended G.S. 15-1 for future prosecutions.
After Roshawn Thompson picked up his cousin Kendall Rascoe from the Greenville mall in November 2014, Thompson and a friend, Andre Grey, robbed Rascoe at gunpoint. At Thompson’s armed robbery trial, his defense attorney sought to cross examine Rascoe about Facebook messages he sent to Thompson earlier in the day asking whether Thompson could get some marijuana for him while he was in Greenville. Rascoe denied sending the message and testified that he just happened to run into Thompson at the mall. The State objected to the admission of the screenshot of the messages.
Later in the trial, the State sought to introduce a screenshot of a picture of Thompson and Grey copied from Thompson’s Facebook page. Rascoe showed the investigating detective the picture for purposes of identifying Thompson and Grey. Thompson objected to the admission of the screenshot, in which both of his middle fingers were extended.
How did the trial court rule? Did it make the right call?
The North Carolina Supreme Court decided State v. Huey on Friday, reversing the court of appeals’ determination that the State’s closing argument unfairly prejudiced the defendant in his trial for murder. Continue reading →
A group of district court judges gathered at the School last week for a class focused on the establishment of school justice partnerships, a central component of the Raise the Age legislation. The class was productive, but there was an elephant in the room that kept distracting everyone. If you’ve been keeping up with the General Assembly’s work over the past month, you likely can call the elephant by name.
It’s not Thursday, but I’m going to throw it back a few years to 2014. Like the rest of the nerds I know, I became obsessed that year with the podcast Serial. The first season of that podcast chronicled the prosecution of Adnan Syed for the 1999 murder of his ex-girlfriend, Hae Min Lee. Host Sarah Koenig meticulously sifted through the evidence and conducted goodness-knows-how-many interviews with everyone connected to the case, including numerous recorded interviews with Syed, who is serving a life sentence in a Maryland prison. Syed claims that he did not kill Lee, whose body was discovered six weeks after she disappeared buried in a Baltimore park. Koenig spends the first several episodes of the podcast describing inconsistencies in witness’s accounts of the day Lee disappeared—inconsistencies that raise doubts about Syed’s guilt. But in episode five, Koenig, with the help of her producer, analyzes the evidence that the State offered regarding which cell towers serviced calls to Syed’s phone during the time that one of Syed’s friends claimed Syed was burying Lee’s body. The producer concludes:
“I think they were probably in [the park] . . . Because . . . the amount of luck that you would have to have to make up a story like that and then have the cell phone records corroborate those key points, I just don’t think that that’s possible.”