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State v. Smith

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 17, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
JAMES EDWARD SMITH

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 8 May 2019.

          Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 16 February 2018 by Judge J. Carlton Cole in Pitt County Superior Court. No. 17 CRS 55157

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Alexandra M. Hightower, for the State.

          W. Michael Spivey for defendant-appellant.

          ZACHARY, JUDGE.

         Defendant James Edward Smith appeals from a judgment entered upon a jury's verdict finding him guilty of solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Upon careful review, we conclude Defendant received a fair trial, free from error.

         Background

         On 20 July 2017, Defendant revealed to Clayton Edwards-an individual who Defendant had recently met through a mutual connection-that he wanted his wife to be killed, and he offered to pay Edwards to kill her. Defendant told Edwards to "basically kill her in cold blood, walk up and shoot her," and provided him with details of where the killing should take place. These requests continued over the next three days.

         Edwards contacted Pitt County Crime Stoppers and informed them that he "had information on someone who wanted someone killed." In conjunction with the Greenville Police Department, Edwards scheduled a meeting with Defendant for 23 July 2017, during which Edwards would wear audio and video recording devices. At the meeting, the two men spoke "more in depth about what [Defendant] wanted [Edwards] to do."

         Later that day, a Greenville police officer served Defendant with an arrest warrant for solicitation to commit first-degree murder. Two weeks later, the Pitt County grand jury returned an indictment formally charging him with the same offense. Defendant's case came on for trial before the Honorable J. Carlton Cole in Pitt County Superior Court on 12 February 2018. After a four-day trial, the jury found Defendant guilty of solicitation to commit first-degree murder, a Class C felony. The trial court sentenced defendant, a prior record level I offender, to a presumptive term of 73 to 100 months in the custody of the North Carolina Division of Adult Correction. Defendant gave notice of appeal in open court.

         Discussion

         Defendant's brief states the issue presented as follows: "The trial court erred by sentencing [Defendant] for a Class C felony where the jury convicted [him] for solicitation to commit second-degree murder but did not determine the nature of the element of malice." To properly analyze Defendant's appeal, we first review the crimes of solicitation and murder.

         A. Solicitation

         Our Supreme Court has "defined the crime of solicitation as counseling, enticing or inducing another to commit a crime." State v. Kemmerlin, 356 N.C. 446, 475, 573 S.E.2d 870, 890 (2002) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Solicitation is a specific-intent crime, State v. Davis, 110 N.C.App. 272, 275, 429 S.E.2d 403, 404, disc. review denied, 334 N.C. 436, 433 S.E.2d 180 (1993), and the offense is complete upon the request. See generally 2 Wayne R. LaFave, Substantive Criminal Law ยง 11.1, at 264 (3d ed. 2018) ("For the crime of solicitation to be completed, it is only necessary that the actor, with intent that another person commit a crime, have enticed, advised, incited, ordered or otherwise encouraged that person to commit a crime."). Thus, the crime is committed "even ...


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