blank

News Roundup

People across the country gathered on Tuesday to celebrate Independence Day. Sadly, celebrations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Shreveport, Louisiana were marred by mass shootings. Forty-year-old Kimbrady Carriker is accused of killing five people – including a 15-year-old boy – after he fired randomly along several blocks of a southwest Philadelphia neighborhood. CNN reports that Carriker, who had a previous gun conviction, was armed with an AR-style rifle and a 9 mm handgun – both privately made ghost guns — and was wearing a bulletproof vest.

Meanwhile, in Shreveport, four people were killed and at least seven others injured during a Fourth of July block party when multiple unidentified men exchanged gunfire. First responders had difficulty getting to the victims because of the number of vehicles at the gathering. No suspects have yet been arrested. CNN has the story here.

Read more

blank

State v. Newborn: Failure to Separately Indict Felon-in-Possession Did Not Deprive Court of Jurisdiction

Earlier this month, the state supreme court rejected a defendant’s challenge to his conviction for possession of a firearm by a felon pursuant to an indictment that failed to comport with a statutory pleading requirement. That case, State v. Newborn, 330PA21, ___ N.C. ___ (June 16, 2023), is the latest in a decade of rulings determining that technical pleading defects do not deprive the trial court of jurisdiction. This post will review Newborn and consider its place among jurisprudence departing from the traditional view that a defective pleading fails to vest jurisdiction.

Read more

blank

Convictions Vacated for “Technical” Pleading Defects

Two recent cases from the North Carolina appellate courts indicate that reports of the demise of technical pleading requirements may have been greatly exaggerated. I am responsible for at least one of those reports. Several years ago, I posted about State v. Brawley, 370 N.C. 626 (2018) (per curiam), in which the North Carolina Supreme Court  affirmed a conviction based on an indictment charging the defendant with stealing shirts belonging to “Belk’s Department Stores, an entity capable of owning property,” even though “Belk’s Department Stores” was not the full legal name of the entity that suffered the loss. I noted then that Brawley was one in a series of recent state supreme court opinions rejecting claims that technical pleading defects deprived the trial court of jurisdiction over the offense. See also State v. Jones, 255 N.C. App. 364 (2017) (failure to allege every element in a citation was not a jurisdictional defect).

Yet, in recent months, the North Carolina Court of Appeals has issued two published opinions vacating convictions based on fatally defective indictments. The first was a rape conviction pursuant to an indictment that failed to allege the defendant knew the victim was physically helpless. State v. Singleton, 285 N.C. App. 630 (2022). The second was a conviction for possessing a firearm at a protest where the pleading failed to state that the offense occurred on public property. State v. Reavis, __ N.C. App. __, 882 S.E.2d 590 (2022). To be sure, each of these cases involves the failure to plead elements of the offense, which is distinguishable from the victim-naming requirements in Brawley and related cases. Nevertheless, each relies on the notion that defects in an indictment deprive the court of its power to adjudicate a case, even when the pleading is sufficient to pass constitutional muster. This post will discuss these cases and consider potential future developments.

Read more

blank

News Roundup

Multiple news outlets, including the Washington Post and New York Times reported yesterday that former President Donald Trump has been federally indicted in connection with the discovery of classified documents in his Mar-a-Lago home after he left the White House. The charges have been called a “seismic event” that puts the nation in an “extraordinary position” since not only is Trump the first former president to ever be federally charged, but he also is the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The latest charges add to the former president’s legal woes as he was indicted in March in New York state court in connection with allegations that he paid hush-money to adult film star Stormy Daniels days before the 2016 presidential election. As big as this news is, it is just one of the many criminal law headlines from the past week.

Read more

blank

Recent Batson Rulings from the North Carolina Supreme Court

Last April, the North Carolina Supreme Court decided two significant cases involving claims that prosecutors impermissibly exercised peremptory challenges against prospective black jurors based on their race:  State v. Hobbs, ___ N.C. ___, 884 S.E.2d 639 (2023) (Hobbs II), and State v. Campbell, ___ N.C. ___884 S.E.2d 674 (2023). This post reviews the framework for the review undertaken by the trial courts in those cases and the state supreme court’s opinions.

Read more

blank

General Assembly Loosens Requirements for Teen Licensure

Twenty five years ago, North Carolina adopted graduated licensing for young drivers, a system founded on the principle that “[s]afe driving requires instruction in driving and experience.” G.S. 20-11(a). The statutory scheme implementing this program grants driving privileges on a limited basis and expands those privileges over time and upon the satisfaction of additional requirements. Id. Accordingly, to receive the first level of a driver’s license – termed a limited provisional license – a driver must have held a limited learner’s permit for at least 12 months. The holder of a limited provisional license generally may not drive unsupervised after 9 p.m. and may not have more than one passenger under the age of 21 in the vehicle. Last month, the General Assembly ratified legislation that loosens these requirements.

Read more

blank

May a Police Department Release its Own Body Worn Camera Footage to the Public?

Suppose that a police officer in a North Carolina city shoots and kills a person in an encounter that began with a traffic stop. There is extensive media coverage of the shooting. The mother of the person who died tells reporters that her son was driving home from work and never made it home. She describes her son as “a hard-working boy who never caused trouble for anybody.” The police chief has seen the recording from the officer’s body-worn camera. That footage shows the suspect jumping from his car and pointing a gun at the officer. The police chief wants to provide a copy of the recording to local reporters. May she do so?

Read more

blank

News Roundup

The week began with news that one of the men accused of murder in the death of Wake County Sheriff Deputy Ned Byrd had escaped from a Virginia jail early Sunday morning. Alder Alfonso Marin-Sotelo was being held at the Piedmont Regional Jail in Farmville, Virginia on federal gun charges when he escaped around 1 a.m. Another inmate, Bruce Callahan, who also has North Carolina connections, escaped late Sunday night.

Unfortunately, jail staff did not notice that either inmate was missing until after 3 a.m. Monday, giving Marin-Sotelo more than a day’s head start. The FBI joined the search Monday and promptly arrested Marin-Sotelo’s sister in High Point alleging that she paid someone to leave in the jail parking lot the getaway car that Marin-Sotelo used to flee the area.

Yesterday Marin-Sotelo was captured by Mexican authorities in Guerrero, more than 2,400 miles from Farmville, Va. He now faces federal charges for escape in addition to the pending state charge for murder. Callahan, who was convicted of federal drug charges, is still at large.

Read more

blank

How Does the Confrontation Clause Impact the Introduction of a Defendant’s Medical Records in a DWI Trial?

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the foundational requirements for introducing a defendant’s medical records in a DWI trial. Soon after I posted, a reader asked whether introducing those records through an affidavit from a records custodian violates a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him or her. My answer is, generally speaking, no.

Read more