Back in May, a divided Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the defendant was not entitled to a jury instruction on entrapment in an online solicitation of a minor case. Entrapment isn’t exactly a common defense (as Jeff noted here). When it comes up, it’s often in drug cases, but it can also arise in computer solicitation cases where law enforcement officers pretend to be underage. State v. Keller, ___ N.C. App. ___, 828 S.E.2d 578 (May 21, 2019), review allowed, ___ N.C. ___ (August 14, 2019), is an example of such a case and appears to be the second reported decision dealing directly with the defense in this context, so I wanted to flag it for readers. Fair warning, this post recounts some of the sexually graphic discussions at issue in the case.
In February 1843, Daniel M’Naughten was tried in London for the murder of Edward Drummond, the private secretary to Prime Minister Robert Peel. M’Naughten was laboring under the delusion that Prime Minister Peel was part of a system that was persecuting him. Only by shooting Peel could he end the torment. Drummond became the victim of these delusions when M’Naughten mistook him for Peel. The trial of M’Naughten, the verdict of insanity, and the aftermath made legal history.
The court of appeals recently addressed an issue that has divided courts elsewhere: whether defense counsel may present an insanity defense without the defendant’s consent. The court ruled that defense counsel may not do so, stating that “because the decision of whether to plead not guilty by reason of insanity is part of the decision of what plea to enter, the right to make that decision is a substantial right belonging to the defendant.”
Suppose John is facing a deadly assault and fears that he will be killed or suffer great bodily harm. John has a firearm but, rather than shoot his assailant, he fires a warning shot. The shot goes awry, strikes John’s assailant, and kills him. May John rely on self-defense if charged with murder? The answer may be surprising.
I am working on a new edition of the self-defense book I wrote in 1996. As in the story of Rip Van Winkle, a lot has changed in twenty years. Most notably, the General Assembly adopted new statutes in 2011 on self-defense and related defenses. This blog post addresses one of those provisions, in G.S. 14-51.4, which disqualifies a person from relying on self-defense while committing, attempting to commit, or escaping from the commission of a felony. North Carolina appellate courts have not yet considered the meaning of this provision. Cf. State v. Rawlings, ___ N.C. App. ___, 762 S.E.2d 909 (2014) (felony disqualification did not apply to case in which defendant’s offense predated enactment of provision, and court expressed no opinion on proper construction of provision).
Diminished capacity is among the most commonly asserted defenses, particularly in first-degree murder cases, but I realized yesterday that I had never blogged about it. Today, I will remedy that. Here’s what you need to know. Generally, negates specific intent. Diminished capacity, first recognized in the case of State v. Shank, 322 N.C. 243 (1988), … Read more
[Editor’s note: John is the author of The Law of Self-Defense in North Carolina, an in-depth analysis of North Carolina’s approach to the use of defensive force. It’s available for purchase here.] North Carolina law recognizes various circumstances in which a person may lawfully use force against the threat of harm. Through decades of decisions, … Read more
The Court of Appeals released several criminal law opinions yesterday. One that caught my eye was State v. Merrell, __ N.C. App. __ (2011). In a nutshell, the defendant was an alcoholic who lived with his sister and her family. He began sexually abusing his niece, in a variety of ways, when she was nine. … Read more
When a defendant introduces evidence at trial showing that the State has failed to prove some element of the crime, the strategy is sometimes described as a failure of proof or “negating” defense. Mistake of fact is one such negating defense. Mistake of fact offers a defense if it negates a mental state required to … Read more