Rap Lyrics as Confessions

When may rap lyrics written by a defendant be admitted as evidence of guilt? That question has been in the news quite a bit lately as a result of a decision by the Nevada Supreme Court. (For example, see this ABC News story, or this Washington Post piece.) There’s also some North Carolina authority on … 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

Guilt of a Codefendant

I’ve had a couple of questions about the same topic recently, so I thought I’d do a quick blog post about it. Our appellate courts have made clear that normally, “it is improper to make reference to the disposition of charges against a codefendant.” State v. Campbell, 296 N.C. 394 (1979). See also State v. … Read more


404(b) Evidence and the Bare Fact of a Prior Conviction

As readers of this blog know, Rule 404(b) provides that although evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove propensity, it may be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake, entrapment, or accident. N.C. R. Evid. 404(b). Even when … Read more


Photographs of Homicide Victims

The State’s effort to introduce photographs of a homicide victim into evidence often is met with defense objections. One objection sometimes asserted is that the photographs are inadmissible as substantive evidence and must be limited to illustrative purposes. This objection likely will be overruled. As a general rule, photographs may be offered as substantive evidence … Read more


Rule 403: Old Chief and Stipulations to Prior Convictions

Some crimes, such as felon in possession of a firearm, include as an element that the defendant has a qualifying prior conviction. When this is the case, the defense may seek to limit the prejudicial effect of the prior conviction by offering to stipulate to its existence and asking the trial judge to preclude the … Read more


Relevancy: Weapons

Recently, I’ve been posting about relevancy issues that arise with some frequency in North Carolina criminal cases. A final topic in that vein is the relevancy of evidence pertaining to weapons allegedly used in the crime. Suppose for example that the State seeks to introduce evidence of a knife allegedly used in an assault. The … Read more


Relevancy: “Context,” “Circumstances,” and “Chain of Events” Evidence

In an earlier post, I wrote about relevancy and guilt of another. In this post, I consider another relevancy issue: context, circumstances, and chain of events evidence. Consider this problem: At the defendant’s murder trial, the State seeks to admit evidence that the defendant was doing drugs before the murder. To keep the facts clean, … Read more


Relevancy: Guilt of Another

Editor’s note: Jessie has prepared a series of posts about the law of relevancy. They’ll run as an intermittent series over the next several weeks. In this and upcoming posts, I will explore several relevancy issues that arise with some frequency. Perhaps the most litigated relevancy issue in North Carolina criminal cases is the admissibility … Read more