State v. Courtney

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF NORTH CAROLINA No. 160PA18 Filed 16 August 2019 STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA v. JAMES HAROLD COURTNEY, III On discretionary review pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-31 of a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals, 817 S.E.2d 412 (N.C. Ct. App. 2018), vacating a judgment entered on 9 November 2016 by Judge Donald W. Stephens in Superior Court, Wake County. Heard in the Supreme Court on 15 May 2019 in session in the New Bern City Hall in the City of New Bern pursuant to section 18B.8 of Chapter 57 of the 2017 Session Laws of the State of North Carolina. Joshua H. Stein, Attorney General, by Jess D. Mekeel, Special Deputy Attorney General, and Benjamin O. Zellinger, Assistant Attorney General, for the State- appellant. Glenn Gerding, Appellate Defender, by Amanda S. Zimmer, Assistant Appellate Defender, for defendant-appellee. Tin Fulton Walker & Owen, PLLC, by Matthew G. Pruden; and Devereux & Banzhoff, PLLC, by Andrew B. Banzhoff, for North Carolina Advocates for Justice, amicus curiae. HUDSON, Justice This case comes to us by way of the State’s appeal from a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals holding that defendant’s right to be free from double jeopardy was violated when the State voluntarily dismissed defendant’s charge after his first STATE V. COURTNEY Opinion of the Court trial ended in a hung jury mistrial. Defendant was retried nearly six years later, after new evidence emerged. The State argues that jeopardy is deemed never to have attached because of the mistrial, so that defendant was not in jeopardy at the time that his second trial began. In the alternative, the State argues that, even if defendant remained in jeopardy following the mistrial, the State’s voluntary dismissal without leave did not terminate that jeopardy and that the State was not barred from trying the defendant a second time. We are not persuaded by either of the State’s arguments and, thus, affirm the Court of Appeals. Today we recognize, in accordance with double jeopardy principles set out by this Court and the United States Supreme Court, that jeopardy attaches when the jury is empaneled and continues following a mistrial until a terminating event occurs. We hold that when the State enters a voluntary dismissal under N.C.G.S. § 15A-931 after jeopardy has attached, jeopardy is terminated in the defendant’s favor, regardless of the reason the State gives for entering the dismissal. The State cannot then retry the case without violating a defendant’s right to be free from double jeopardy. When the State dismisses a charge under section 15A-931 after jeopardy has attached, jeopardy terminates. Thus, we affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals vacating defendant’s conviction on double jeopardy grounds and remand to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. Background -2- STATE V. COURTNEY Opinion of the Court Defendant was arrested on 2 November 2009 for the murder of James Carol Deberry, which was committed three days earlier on 31 October 2009; he was indicted on ...

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