Suppose you are a prosecutor and you want to subpoena a witness from another state to testify at an upcoming trial. How might you go about doing that? What forms do you use? Do you need some sort of certificate from a judge? Is the witness entitled to compensation? If so, how much? Can you pay in advance?
If you are getting ready for trial, all of these questions might occur to you, and you might wish there was a one-stop shop for an answer, given all the other items on your trial prep list. Guess what? There is! It’s a new application called NC Prosecutors’ Resource Online (NC PRO) and you can find it here. Just type “out of state witness” into the search box, and click on the entry titled “Securing Attendance of Witnesses.” There you will find the answers to every question posed above and links to the relevant forms. Continue reading →
Like most of the rest of the country, I followed the recent confirmation hearings for Judge (now Justice) Kavanaugh with great interest.
As the readers of this blog already know, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Judge Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in high school. Much of her testimony recounted her recollection of that event, but some of her testimony was of a different nature. In addition to telling the Committee what she recalled, Dr. Ford also described the biological and chemical processes of memory itself, such as the way that neurotransmitters encode memories into the hippocampus.
In other words, Dr. Ford testified in dual roles: she was both a fact witness and a de facto expert witness.
Most of us will never participate in a Supreme Court confirmation hearing, but a similar type of dual testimony can arise in criminal trials in state court, and it raises some interesting issues.
Continue reading →
Whenever a prior offense “raises an offense of lower grade to one of higher grade and thereby becomes an element” of the current offense (e.g., habitual larceny, habitual misdemeanor assault, habitual DWI, and second or subsequent charges for certain other offenses such as stalking, shoplifting, or carrying a concealed firearm), the state must plead and try the case in compliance with G.S. 15A-928. In short, this statute requires that: (i) an “improvised” name for the alleged offense must be used to avoid referring to any prior convictions; (ii) any prior offenses must be alleged in a separate indictment (or at least as a separate count within the indictment); (iii) the defendant must be separately arraigned on the alleged priors outside the presence of the jury; and (iv) if the defendant admits to the prior convictions, then that element has been proved and the state may not present evidence on it, nor will it be submitted to the jury.
Shea Denning has previously posted about G.S. 15A-928 and some of the key cases interpreting its requirements here and here, but last week I received an interesting procedural question on this topic.
When the state complies with these pleading rules, the result will be two separate indictments (or counts) pending in court, but of course there is really only one criminal offense being charged, and the defendant may only receive one punishment for it. What is the recommended procedure for how the charge(s?) and sentence(s?) should be reflected in the plea transcript or verdict form, and how should the court structure its judgment? This post offers a few thoughts and suggestions. Continue reading →
The defense files a motion to suppress evidence in superior court, and the judge sets the matter for a hearing. The parties and their witnesses show up, ready to give testimony and make their arguments. The judge opens court and asks a simple question: “who’s going first, the state or the defense?”
A view I’ve often heard expressed is that the state has to go first, because even though it was the defendant’s motion which prompted the hearing, “the state always has the burden” and the party with the burden goes first.
That’s generally a correct statement about the burden of proof, but the corresponding rule about order of presentation is a little more… flexible.
Continue reading →
This scenario will sound familiar to many criminal attorneys: you’re in court, the DA calls the next case, and the judge asks John Q. Defendant how he pleads?
“Your Honor, I am not ‘JOHN Q. DEFENDANT,’ which is a fictional corporate entity. I am a natural living being, appearing pro per on behalf of John Q. Defendant, free citizen, for the limited purpose of challenging jurisdiction….” What follows next is a confusing series of questions to the judge about standing and injured parties, and quasi-legal arguments full of buzz words about the U.C.C., admiralty court, strawmen, right to travel, capital letters, red ink, fiduciaries, de facto government, accepted for value, etc. On and on and on it goes, for however long the court is willing to listen.
Yep, you’ve got a “sovereign citizen” on your hands.
Readers may have different opinions on the best way to handle these defendants in court (which I hope you will share in the comments), but I recommend taking the simplest approach of all: don’t play the game.
Continue reading →
A Wake County jury determined yesterday that Starbucks is not liable for injuries suffered by Raleigh Police Department Lieutenant Matthew Kohr when a cup of hot coffee spilled on his lap. WRAL has the story here. The verdict was 10-2. The parties agreed to a non-unanimous verdict. Can they do that? Could the parties in a criminal case do that? Continue reading →