Within the Four Corners: Scouring Indictments for Missing Elements in State v. Jackson and State v. Coffey.

Two recent opinions from the Court of Appeals illustrate the remarkable controversy currently underway over the specificity required of indictments.  In State v. Coffey, No. COA22-883, 2024 WL 675881 (N.C. Ct. App. Feb. 20, 2024), our Court of Appeals ruled an indictment for felony obstruction of justice was facially defective for failure to allege an essential element of the offense: the purpose of hindering or impeding a judicial or official proceeding or investigation.  By contrast, in State v. Jackson, No. COA22-280, 2024 WL 925480 (N.C. Ct. App. Mar. 5, 2024), our Court of Appeals ruled an indictment for habitual misdemeanor assault was sufficient though it failed explicitly to allege an element: causing physical injury.  This post attempts to reconcile the divergent analytical approaches taken in Coffey and Jackson.

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Criminal Charges, Civil Settlements, and Legal Ethics

The domestic violence case against Carolina Panther Greg Hardy was dismissed this week. According to the Charlotte Observer, a principal reason was that the alleged victim, Hardy’s ex-girlfriend, refused to cooperate and avoided service of a subpoena. Prosecutors also told the judge that the alleged victim had reached a civil settlement with Hardy. To be clear, no one has said that the settlement agreement required the alleged victim not to cooperate. But could the agreement contain such a provision?

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Lance Armstrong

Cyclist Lance Armstrong has recently confessed to using performance enhancing drugs during each of his seven Tour de France victories. Public discussion has focused on whether his apology, during an interview with Oprah Winfrey, was genuine or not. I want to consider whether his conduct was criminal. (By “conduct,” I mean the doping and related … Read more


What Not to Do in an Impaired Driving Case (Post I)

If I were to compile guidance for law enforcement officers and judges on “what not to do” in an impaired driving case, I’d be sure to include excerpts from two cases decided by the court of appeals this week:  State v. Petty and State v. Taylor. Let’s start with Taylor, reserving discussion of Petty for … Read more

Obstruction of Justice

As the current edition of North Carolina Crimes explains, “[o]bstructing justice consists of any act that prevents, obstructs, impedes, or hinders public or legal justice, and it may take many forms.” Jessica Smith, North Carolina Crimes 451 (6th ed. 2007). The breadth of this common-law offense was recently highlighted by the court of appeals in … Read more