Trial Preparation Taints Eyewitnesses’ In-Court Identification, Leads to Reversal of Murder Conviction

Last week, the court of appeals reversed a defendant’s conviction for first-degree murder. That doesn’t happen every day, so let’s unpack the case. The central issue concerns two eyewitnesses’ in-court identifications of the defendant. Continue reading

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News Roundup

A California man with connections to North Carolina, Kevin Janson Neal, killed five people and wounded eight others in a shooting spree in Northern California this week.  After killing his wife, Neal drove the streets of Rancho Tehama firing randomly at houses and other structures.  Eventually, Neal approached an elementary school and fired multiple shots into the building.  The sound of the shots caused school officials to lock the building down, preventing Neal from entering the school and likely saving many lives.  Keep reading for more news.

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Category: Uncategorized

A Short Graphic Novel on How a Felony Sentence Is Served

I wrote a comic book about prison. Let me explain why. Continue reading

State v. Brice: Pleading Rules for Habitual Offenses Are Not Jurisdictional

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.

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May a Magistrate Impose Conditions on a Defendant’s Conduct While in Pretrial Detention?

This question in the title of this post came up in a recent class. The specific context involved a domestic violence defendant who was in jail waiting for a judge to set conditions of release pursuant to the 48 hour rule established in G.S. 15A-534.1. But a similar issue arises whenever a magistrate sets conditions of release for a defendant who is unable to make bond and so remains in pretrial detention. An example of a common condition is that the defendant not contact the alleged victim. Continue reading

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News Roundup

For the second time in a month, the leading criminal law news in our country is a staggeringly tragic mass shooting.  The Las Vegas shooting in early October was the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, and the shooting this week at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 people were killed and 20 others injured, is the deadliest shooting by an individual in Texas history. News reports say that roughly half of the victims were children; one family lost members from three generations.  The Dallas Morning News has profiles of the victims here.  Keep reading for more news.

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Category: Uncategorized

New Gang Sentencing Enhancements

Two new sentencing enhancements related to gangs will come into effect for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2017. Continue reading

DWI Day at the Court of Appeals

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

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New Resource on Immigration Consequences of a Criminal Conviction

I am excited to announce the release of the 2017 edition of our manual, specific to North Carolina law and practice, on the immigration consequences of a criminal conviction. We hope that this online manual, which can be viewed at no charge, will be a useful resource in understanding this challenging area of law. Continue reading

Supreme Court of North Carolina: Officer Did Not Improperly Extend a Traffic Stop by Frisking a Driver and Ordering the Driver into a Patrol Car

In 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States decided Rodriguez v. United States, 575 U.S. __, 135 S. Ct. 1609 (2015). Rodriguez held that it was improper for an officer to extend a traffic stop for several minutes in order to conduct a dog sniff of the stopped vehicle. More generally, the decision requires an officer to pursue the “mission” of a traffic stop diligently, without measurably extending the duration of the stop for investigative activity unrelated to the purpose of the stop.

Our court of appeals has issued several decisions under Rodriguez, including some in defendants’ favor. Everyone has been waiting for those cases to make their way to the state supreme court. Now one has, and it turns out that the supreme court’s understanding of Rodriguez differs considerably from the view adopted by at least some panels of the court of appeals.

The case in question is State v. Bullock, __ N.C. __, __ S.E.2d __, 2017 WL 5017435 (2017), and this post explores it further. Continue reading