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OJD Case Law Corner Vol. 14

Happy Friday, Defenders! Welcome back to Case Law Corner. If you noticed that it’s been a little longer than usual since our last case law update, then you noticed correctly! We are adjusting our blog posting schedule, and Case Law Corner will be returning on a bi-monthly schedule - expect the next installment in July. Until then, here is your roundup of Delinquency Cases from February, March, and April 2024.


In re: K.J.B.H.

No. COA23-632

Davie County

6 February 2024


Summary of the Case: Kyle was adjudicated delinquent for sexual battery and the court imposed a Level 1 Disposition for “inappropriate touching” of another student on her breasts while on the school bus. Trial counsel moved to dismiss, both at close of state’s evidence, and at the close of all evidence, for failure to show sexual purpose. The trial court found that the State had met its burden to show sexual purpose. The trial court did not provide written findings showing it considered the five factors under NCGS §7B-2501 required for disposition.


Issues Affecting Youth: Defenders should review the opinion as a large portion of the opinion discusses the factual details received as evidence by the trial court that amounted to sufficient evidence of sexual purpose, including concessions of some factors that would seem to disfavor a showing of purpose. Significantly, the Appellate Court indicates that while some evidence was received of the existence of disabilities or other conditions that may have had some bearing on the Court’s analysis, sufficient evidence was not presented for the Court to consider those circumstances. Defenders should take note that Appellate Courts typically require evidence in the form of expert testimony or admission of relevant documents to fully establish such factors.


“We note that the Record shows Kyle has been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and mild intellectual disabilities, and that he receives learning accommodations. While this could have had bearing on our analysis, there was no expert testimony as to Kyle’s diagnosis and accommodations…”


State v. Kevin Salvador Golphin

No. COA22-713

Cumberland County

6 February 2024


Summary of the Case: In 1997, Defendant and his brother shot and killed two law enforcement officers when the officers attempted to arrest the brothers for stealing a car. Defendant was arrested, indicted, and tried, and in 1998 Defendant was found guilty by a jury of two counts of first-degree murder. Defendant was 17 years, 9 months, and 2 days old at the time of the murders. While originally sentenced to death for the offenses, a Miller resentencing hearing was held in April of 2022 and Defendant was resentenced to mandatory life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.


Issues Affecting Youth: What is the standard for review of a trial court’s analysis of the Miller factors during a sentencing or resentencing hearing? The appellate courts will review for abuse of discretion. Defenders should note that a sentencing court’s findings of fact may be challenged as unsupported by competent evidence, which may alter the appellate court’s review and analysis of the case.


“We first note that Defendant did not challenge any of the sentencing court’s findings of fact as unsupported by competent evidence. The sentencing court’s findings are therefore binding on appeal. . . . We acknowledge there is room for different views on the mitigating impact of each factor, but given the sentencing court’s findings, the court did not abuse its discretion in sentencing Defendant to consecutive terms of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”



State v. Riley Dawson Conner

No. COA23-470

Columbus County

19 March 2024


Summary of the Case: This opinion is the most recent in a series of opinions in the Kelliher/Conner series addressing de facto LWOP sentences for juveniles. In June of 2022, the North Carolina Supreme Court reversed and remanded Riley Dawson Conner’s case to the trial court for “further proceedings not inconsistent” with the opinion. The resentencing hearing was set for 1 November 2022 during which the trial court altered the sentence to comport with the 40-year “bright line rule” of the North Carolina Supreme Court, imposing a sentence in the mitigated range for both charges (murder, rape) and calculating that Conner would be eligible for parole at 39.4 years of incarceration.


Issues Affecting Youth: If there is no intent to impose LWOP, may consecutive sentences be imposed in Superior Court if the sum of those sentences are 40 years or less of incarceration before a youth is eligible for parole? Yes, it may.


“At resentencing, the trial court acknowledged its intent to comply with this ‘40-year bright-line rule,’ readopted its findings in mitigation, and imposed a sentence that met this requirement. The trial court followed the instructions outlined within the Supreme Court’s opinion. Based upon the analysis of Conner II and the trial court’s compliance with the opinion, the trial court did not err in its resentence of Defendant.  . . . Similarly, ‘[w]hen multiple sentences of imprisonment are imposed on a person at the same time . . . the sentences may run either concurrently or consecutively, as determined by the court.’ N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1354(a) (2023). Therefore, the determination rested within the trial court’s discretion to continue to impose consecutive terms on Defendant’s sentences.”


In re: S.C.

No. COA23-615

Wake County

19 March 2024


Summary of the Case: Rachel was charged with petitions arising out of a school fight at her middle school, which included injuries sustained by the assistant principal when attempting to break up the fight. Petitions were taken out for assault inflicting serious bodily injury, assault on a school employee, resisting a public officer, and simple affray, and an adjudicatory hearing was held on the petitions. At the close of all evidence, including the testimonies of the assistant principal and SRO, Rachel moved to dismiss all allegations for insufficiency of the evidence. The trial court denied the motion and, ultimately, found Rachel was responsible for all four allegations.


The Appellate Court also addressed a question of jurisdiction of the CoA to review the matter.


Issues Affecting Youth: If the Court finds a youth responsible for both Felony Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury and Misdemeanor Assault of a School Employee, must it arrest judgment on the misdemeanor charge? Yes, it must.


“While the State defends the result at trial on the basis that ‘felony assault inflicting serious bodily injury [] and misdemeanor assault of a school employee [] involve different statutory provisions and each offense contains an element not present in the other’— seemingly conflating the statutory construction analysis with our elemental test for double jeopardy — it ignores the fact that the same could have been said for the offenses in Jamison. Accordingly, we vacate the adjudication order in part inasmuch as it did not arrest judgment for the charge under N.C.G.S. § 14-33(c)(6).” (internal citations omitted)



In re: E.M.

No. COA23-884

Yancey County

2 April 2024


Summary of the Case: Fourteen year old E.M. admitted responsibility, pursuant to plea agreement, to felonious breaking and entering, and the state dismissed remaining petitions against the youth for other related felonies. The facts of the case seem to indicate an emotionally charged setting for the victim and possibly community. The Court entered a Level 2 disposition order on the same day as the adjudication, and ordered E.M. to pay restitution, perform community service, and other terms of supervised probation. Notably, there was no specification as to the amount of restitution to be paid within the dispositional order (or the conditions of probation). Some information was presented to the court that other juveniles were involved in the breaking and entering(s), and that total damages came to $20,949.00. The Court also did not make any findings of fact as to why a Level 2 disposition was being imposed since the Court did have authority to issue a Level 1 disposition in this matter.


Issues Affecting Youth: 


May a Court enter a blanket requirement that “restitution be paid” without consideration of the best interest of the juvenile, the ability of the juvenile to pay said restitution, and by extension, a specification of how much restitution is to be paid? No, it may not.


“The district court’s only finding regarding restitution was that E.M. was to pay restitution to the victim’s benefit within twelve months, and that there was joint and several liability. Here, the district court did not state with particularity, orally or in writing on the disposition order, the terms of restitution (i.e., the amount E.M. was to pay) or any findings showing that the court considered whether restitution was ‘fair and reasonable, and in the best interest of the juvenile.’ Thus, based on well-settled case precedent by this Court, we cannot determine whether the conditions of restitution are in the best interest of E.M., and therefore we remand this disposition order with instructions for the district court to make appropriate findings of fact.” (internal citations omitted)


“Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2506(4) and (22), if the juvenile establishes to the court that she does not have, and could not reasonably acquire, the means to make restitution, then the court “shall not require the juvenile to make restitution.” (internal citations omitted)


May a Court enter a Level 2 Disposition Order when also authorized to enter a Level 1 Disposition Order without making any supporting findings of fact as to why a Level 2 Dispositional Order is the most appropriate disposition? No, it may not.


“Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2501(c), the court ‘shall select the most appropriate disposition both in terms of kind and duration for the delinquent juvenile.’ N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2501(c). The court determines which dispositional level is appropriate based on the juvenile’s delinquency history and the level of offense. N.C. Gen. Stat. §7B-2508(f). Finally, ‘within the guidelines set forth in [N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2508],’ the court shall select a disposition that is designed to protect the public and to meet the needs and best interests of the juvenile, based upon: (1) the seriousness of the offense; (2) the need to hold the juvenile accountable; (3) the importance of protecting the public safety; (4) the degree of culpability indicated by the circumstances of the particular case; and (5) the rehabilitative and treatment needs of the juvenile indicated by a risk and needs assessment. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2501(c).”



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