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.”
On Monday, I spoke to a group of DMV hearing officers about administrative order writing. These are the officials who hold hearings to determine whether a person’s driver’s license is subject to revocation or reinstatement. The bases for hearing officer action run the gamut. They exercise discretion in determining whether a person’s license is revoked for accumulating too many driver’s license points or for excessive speeding. They evaluate and weigh evidence to determine whether a person charged with an implied consent offense did, in fact, willfully refuse chemical testing. They hold hearings to determine whether a person whose license has been restored following a DWI has violated a condition of the reinstatement. They also determine whether to conditionally restore the licenses of people convicted of impaired driving before the end of the statutory revocation period.
I can’t say whether the hearing officers learned much from me. But, as is always the case when I interact with a room full of public servants, I learned something from them on Monday. Beginning in January 2018, DMV plans to assess fees for these types of hearings. Some of them are as high as $450.
State v. Johnson, __ N.C. __ (August 18, 2017) opens like a novel:
Defendant was stopped at a red light on a snowy evening. When the light turned green, defendant’s truck abruptly accelerated, turned sharply left, and fishtailed, all in front of a police officer in his patrol car. The officer pulled defendant over for driving at an unsafe speed given the road conditions.
On second thought, maybe this reads more like a bar exam question (or a Dan Fogelberg song).
What say you, barristers? Was the stop lawful?
Legislation enacted by the General Assembly this session again makes it possible for persons convicted of habitual impaired driving to (eventually) have their driving privileges restored.
North Carolina adopted a rule in 1979 to limit the introduction of evidence about the sexual behavior of an alleged victim in criminal trials for rape and other sexual offenses. Before that so-called rape shield rule was enacted, evidence of prosecuting witness’s general reputation for unchastity could be introduced in a rape trial to attack the witness’s credibility and to show the likelihood of his or her consent. See, e.g., State v. Banks, 295 N.C. 399 (1978), overruled on other grounds, State v. Collins, 334 N.C. 54 (1993).
A 1977 report on sexual assaults by the Legislative Research Commission recommended adoption of the rape shield rule “to improve the conduct of sexual assault prosecutions” in the state. Detailed Comments on Draft Law, Legislative Research Commission, Report to the 1977 General Assembly of North Carolina: Sexual Assaults 86 (1977). The commission explained that such prosecutions were “too often conducted in a way that embarrasses or intimidates the victim beyond the defendant’s legitimate interest in a fair trial.” Id. The “chief evil” was the “use of evidence of irrelevant sexual behavior to influence the court and jury, not because it is logically related to any material issue in the proceeding, but because it creases prejudice against the person whose sexual behavior is so demonstrated.” Id. The rule adopted in 1979 is codified in substantially the same form today as Rule 412 of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence.
Nearly forty years after its adoption, the appellate courts continue to refine the scope of the rape shield statute. Several recent cases explore the rule’s limitations and the analysis a trial court must employ when a defendant charged with a sexual offense seeks to admit evidence regarding the prosecuting witness’s sexual conduct.