Visual Identification of Drugs (Again)

The longest opinion issued by the court of appeals this week was Judge Ervin’s 45-page treatise in State v. Ward, __ N.C. App. __ (2009). Although the opinion contains other important material, I want to focus on the court’s holding that the method used by an SBI agent to identify certain prescription drugs was “not … Read more

News Roundup

There has been an endless parade of relevant news over the past week or so. First, Justice Sonia Sotomayor was confirmed by the Senate and sworn in. This New York Times story about her confirmation gives you the basics if you’ve been living under a rock. Second, I’ve just come back from a week of … Read more

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Retroactivity of Melendez-Diaz (Again)

In my last post on this topic, I addressed the “new rule” prong of Teague retroactivity analysis as it applies to Melendez-Diaz. I ended that post by noting that another aspect of retroactivity analysis that has been raised regarding Melendez-Diaz is whether the Teague test applies in North Carolina motion for appropriate relief proceedings in … Read more

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What’s Blakely got to do with it? Sentencing in Impaired Driving Cases after Melendez-Diaz

Jeff Welty blogged here and Jessica Smith published a paper here about the implications of the Supreme Court’s holding in Melendez-Diaz that forensic laboratory reports are testimonial, rendering the affiants witnesses who are subject to the defendant’s right of confrontation under the Sixth Amendment. I’ve been pondering the impact of the court’s holding on the … Read more

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Retroactivity of Melendez-Diaz

Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, 557 U.S. __, 129 S. Ct. 2527 (2009), decided by the United States Supreme Court last month, already has had significant implications for criminal prosecutions in North Carolina. The original wave of questions posed to me about the case pertained to its application in pending prosecutions. I wrote about Melendez-Diaz generally and … Read more

The Impact of Melendez-Diaz on North Carolina

I was on vacation last week, and the buzz around Melendez-Diaz — see this prior post for the basics — was partly drowned out by the sound of the waves crashing on the beach. But only partly, because Melendez-Diaz is a big case, with significant implications for North Carolina, and questions about it were still … Read more

Melendez-Diaz: Crawford Applies to Lab Reports

In yesterday’s frivolous post, I said that legal news was slow. Not anymore! The United States Supreme Court decided Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts yesterday. It’s a big Confrontation Clause case, and I expect that Jessica Smith, the Crawford expert on our faculty, will eventually weigh in with an expert analysis. But since Jessie’s still busy administering … Read more

Caught on Camera

It seems that video cameras are everywhere, these days: at the bank, at every youth soccer game, in jails and prisons, at Wal-Mart. One often-cited (but apparently questionable) statistic suggests that Londoners are caught on camera 300 times per day. Americans, too, are videotaped frequently. Some of the cameras belong to police departments, who often … Read more

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Post-Conviction DNA Testing Heats Up

Editor’s note: A previous post concerning a United States Supreme Court case about post-conviction DNA testing appears here. Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of calls about requests for post-conviction DNA testing. Since there seems to be a bit of confusion about how these requests should be made and handled, I thought it might be … Read more

Selective Assertion of the Fifth Amendment Privilege

Suppose that an eyewitness testifies for the state on direct examination that he saw the defendant snatch an old woman’s purse and run off. The defense cross-examines the witness about whether he’d used drugs shortly before the crime took place, hoping to show that the witness’s perception was impaired. If the witness asserts his Fifth … Read more