Change in Punishment for Second-Degree Murder

Senate Bill 105, which passed both chambers of the General Assembly overwhelmingly and appears certain to become law (either with the Governor’s signature or because of the passage of time without her veto), increases the penalty for most second-degree murders. Second-degree murder is currently a B2 felony, but for offenses committed on or after December … Read more


Evaluating The Circumstantial Murder Case

In recent years there has been a spate of cases assessing the sufficiency of the evidence in murder prosecutions where the State’s case is built on circumstantial evidence. A recent decision by the court of appeals in State v. Carver should make prosecutors happy while frustrating the defense. The majority described the facts of Carver … Read more


State v. Pierce: Malice and Foreseeability in Death by Vehicle Prosecutions

The court of appeals’ recent decision in State v. Pierce, __ N.C. App. __ (October 18, 2011), analyzed whether a defendant could properly be convicted of second degree murder for the death of a law enforcement officer who was speeding to assist another officer who in turn was chasing the defendant as he fled in … Read more


State v. Davis: Rule 404(b) and Remote Convictions

I wrote here about the court of appeals’ recent ruling in State v. Davis that expert testimony calculating the defendant’s alcohol concentration based on odor alone was improperly admitted at defendant’s trial on second-degree murder, impaired driving, and other charges arising from a fatal hit-and-run accident. This post addresses the court’s ruling in Davis as … Read more

Murder by Drugs

Our murder statute, G.S. 14-17, defines first-degree murder, then proceeds as follows: “All other kinds of murder, including that which shall be proximately caused by the unlawful distribution of opium . . . cocaine . . . or methamphetamine, when the ingestion of such substance causes the death of the user, shall be deemed murder … Read more

Merger and Felony Murder

I’ve had several questions recently about the merger doctrine as it applies to felony murder. It’s a complicated area, made even more confusing because there are two different doctrines that share the name “merger.” I’m not going to address the merger doctrine that requires the court to arrest judgment on the underlying felony when a … Read more