The Fourth Circuit recently issued a decision prohibiting retrial of a defendant charged with murder following a mistrial. The government obtained the mistrial over the defendant’s objection when a key witness could not be located during the trial. On appeal, the Fourth Circuit found that no manifest necessity justified the mistrial and that double jeopardy prohibited another attempt by the government to convict the defendant. I previously wrote about mistrials and double jeopardy here, and I wanted to flag this case for readers for its treatment of missing witnesses in the mistrial context. The case is Seay v. Cannon, ___ F.3d ___, 2019 WL 2552953 (4th Cir., June 21, 2019). Continue reading
Category Archives: Uncategorized
I have discussed elsewhere criticisms and concerns asserted regarding money-based bail systems. Among other things, it is argued that money-based bail systems undermine public safety by allowing dangerous but wealthy people to buy their way out of jail with no supervision, and—citing recent empirical research—that unnecessary incarcerations of low-risk people who cannot pay their bonds causes more crime once those people are released. It also is asserted that unnecessary wealth-based detentions of low-risk individuals are unfair, disproportionately impact people of color and inefficiently use taxpayer resources. Finally, some point to successful legal challenges to money-based bail systems as creating litigation risk. In light of those criticisms and concerns, it is natural to wonder: How big a role does money play in our state’s bail system? The answer: A lot. Continue reading →
The major national criminal law news of the week was the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein on federal sex-trafficking charges involving underage girls. Epstein, who often is referred to as a billionaire financier though the extent and source of his wealth is largely shrouded in mystery, pleaded guilty in 2008 to prostitution charges in Florida state court as part of an unusually lenient plea agreement that allowed him to avoid serious federal sex crime charges and shielded any of his co-conspirators from prosecution. That plea agreement was approved by current Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta, who was the United States Attorney in the Southern District of Florida at the time. Over the years, Epstein has been connected to President Donald Trump and former President Bill Clinton. Keep reading for more news.
In United States v. Haymond, 139 S. Ct. 2369 (2019), a divided Supreme Court concluded that a federal statute was unconstitutional to the extent that it exposed the defendant to additional mandatory imprisonment based on a judicial finding that he had violated his supervised release. Does the case have implications for probation and post-release supervision hearings in North Carolina? Continue reading →
About a year ago, Shea wrote about red flag laws, sometimes called gun violence restraining orders or extreme risk protection orders. More than a dozen states have such laws, and several bills are pending in the General Assembly that would enact a red flag law here. But are red flag laws constitutional? Continue reading →
Though Independence Day has passed, the celebration will continue for many through a weekend of travel and events with family and friends. Through Friday evening, the NCDOT is suspending most major projects that require lane closure, and projects may be suspended on Sunday as well. Law enforcement agencies across the state are putting extra emphasis on safe driving and boating this weekend, planning impaired driving checkpoints and extra patrols with Operation Firecracker. If you shoot off any actual firecrackers, you might be violating state law and you shouldn’t compound the situation by doing it unsafely – be smart and consult the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s 2019 Fireworks Injuries poster. Enjoy the holiday weekend and keep reading for more news. Continue reading →
As Chris Tyner explained here a few weeks ago, the School of Government will be continuing Professor Smith’s practice of summarizing recent North Carolina appellate cases on criminal law. The summaries will be posted here on the blog, and also sent out to the criminal law listserv. This post provides summaries of the North Carolina Court of Appeals opinions published on July 2, 2019.
In State v. Harvey, ___ N.C. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (June 14, 2019), a five to one majority of the North Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the unpublished decision of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 817 S.E.2d 500 (2018), holding that the trial judge properly refused to instruct the jury on perfect and imperfect self-defense in a homicide case. In so ruling, the majority in the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals relied on the “belief” doctrine created by our courts over the last 25 years. The opinions, four in all, show that our courts are continuing to wrestle with the implications of that doctrine. Continue reading →
Last month the News Roundup noted that a federal judge had vacated Charles Ray Finch’s 1976 state conviction for murder. That ruling followed the Fourth Circuit’s decision earlier this year that Finch was entitled to a hearing on the merits of an untimely habeas petition because he met the actual innocence standard required to overcome his untimeliness. The Wilson Times reports that this week the Wilson County District Attorney’s Office formally dismissed the murder charge against Finch and will not retry him. The article says that Finch now will petition Governor Cooper for a pardon, which, if granted, would entitle him to compensation for the 40 years he spent in prison. Keep reading for more news.
Under G.S. 15A-1340.14(d), when a defendant has more than one prior conviction from a “single superior court during one calendar week,” only the most serious of them counts for prior record points for felony sentencing. What is a “single superior court”? Continue reading →