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Attorney Carilyn Ibsen's Blog

about Criminal Defense in North Carolina and South Carolina

 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Fingerprint

In some criminal cases, every fact is at issue. You will find the District Attorney and defense attorney sparring over the credibility of witnesses, the collection of evidence and the facts at issue. Occasionally, a defense attorney will have a case where there isn't a real dispute over the evidence. The question becomes whether that evidence is enough to find a person responsible for the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. I had this type of case last week.

The charges were felony breaking and entering a residence, conspiracy to commit breaking and entering and larceny. The only evidence connecting my client to the crime scene was a fingerprint lift off a flat panel television inside the residence. The victim testified she left her apartment in the morning and came back to find her front door kicked in and house completely ransacked. Multiple items were missing. She furthered testified that she did not know my client and my client did not have any permission to be in her house. One item, a pair of earrings, was found later at a pawn shop. Anyone who takes an item to a pawn shop must fill out a form with their name, fingerprint and other information. This was not filled out by my client.

The judge granted my motion to dismiss the larceny and conspiracy charge at the close of the States' evidence. All that was left was the breaking and entering charge. I argued that the most powerful evidence acquitting my client was the lack of evidence; the victim never testified how long she had owned that television. The State's fingerprint expert testified on my cross examination that a fingerprint can survive for a long period of time if it is not tampered with. I argued that the victim could of bought that television off of Craig's List a week ago, it could have been bought as an 'open item' at Best Buy.  Here, the absence of evidence should acquit my client.

I won that case. Sometimes a fingerprint isn't enough.

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Jury Duty

While I know I have zero chance of ever being selected to be on a jury, I do live vicariously through friends and family when they receive their summons in the mail. Last week it was mother's turn to complete her civic duty in Federal Court. It was around 2:00 when I received her text that she had been excused. It was her summary of events that made me shake my head and grin...

She was seated in the jury box while the judge asked general questions to all members of the panel. She did not respond when asked if she knew anyone in law enforcement. No, she thought, her daughter is a criminal defense attorney. The judge eventually started asking her individual questions including the standard question "is there any reason you couldn't be fair?". My mom responded that she thought she should mention that her daughter was a former Deputy District Attorney and now practices as a criminal defense attorney in Mecklenburg County. The judge immediately asked my mom why she didn't mention that when he asked about law enforcement.

My mother's response: "My daughter doesn't enforce the law, your honor, she defends it." She was summarily dismissed by the government's attorney.


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Monday, April 2, 2012

Incarceration or Rehabilitation?

A new survey released today shows that most Mecklenburg County residents prefer rehabilitation and treatment as an option for those accused of crimes rather than automatic incarceration. The Charlotte Observer summarized the results in today's paper. While residents are concerned with violent crime, many support first time, non violent offenders receive treatment programs:
Although incarceration is still an option in some cases, most residents do not believe it should be used for nonviolent crimes and low risk offenders. 
Statistics show that rehabilitation through court ordered Drug Courts/ DWI Step Court is a viable option,  Support within the community often increases for such programs when citizens learn the costs of incarceration. According to the article, Mecklenburg County spends more than $80 million each year to run it's jails. The cost to house an inmate per day $110.23.

To read the entire survey, click here.

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