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N.C. Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments at Wake Forest Law on Tuesday, Feb. 25

For the 22nd consecutive year, Wake Forest Law will host oral arguments in the North Carolina Court of Appeals starting at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 25, in the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1312.  The oral argument is open to the public and law school community.

The panel of judges include Judge Linda McGee, Judge Sanford Steelman and Judge Donna Stroud.

“A panel of judges on the North Carolina Court of Appeals has visited Wake Forest for an afternoon of arguments for the past 22 years, allowing our law students to see what real appellate arguments are like and to see that their own oral arguments are nothing to fear,” Professor Chris Coughlin explained.  ”We are fortunate to have this opportunity.”

The following two cases have been set for argument: State v. Monroe (COA No. 13-954)  and In the Matter of W.J.W.,  (COA No. 13-1129). The first involves jury instructions, while the second addresses a juvenile case.

“The Court tries to schedule especially interesting cases for its visits, and this year is no exception,” Coughlin added.

The first case, State of North Carolina v. Monroe, is a criminal case with a single issue.  The issue is whether the jury should have been instructed that self-defense was a defense to a possession of a firearm charge, which could have allowed the jury to acquit him on that charge.  The jury found the defendant not guilty of first-degree murder based on self-defense, and the defendant contends that the jury should have been instructed that self-defense was a defense to the defendant’s possession of a firearm charge, too.  The defendant borrowed the gun he used just before he was attacked.  Based on his possession of a firearm conviction, the defendant was also convicted of being a habitual felon and sentenced to between 159 and 200 months in prison, so a lot is at stake in this appeal.

The State’s position is that the trial judge did not err by failing to give a “special” jury instruction (a jury instruction not set out in the ordinary “pattern” jury instructions for our State).  The State contends that while the evidence may have supported a self-defense instruction as to the first degree murder charge, the charges of first-degree murder and possession of a firearm have different elements, and the defendant was not justified in possessing the gun before he used it.  Relying on two prior North Carolina Court of Appeals decisions, the State contends that the evidence did not support a justification defense, because the defendant was not in imminent danger when he took possession of the gun, the defendant negligently and recklessly placed himself in a situation where he would have to engage in criminal conduct, and the defendant had reasonable alternatives to shooting the victim.

 The second case is a juvenile case, In the Matter of W.J.W., and due to the confidentiality concerns of it being a juvenile case, the briefs are not available online.

Following the two arguments, the judges will invite the audience to ask questions concerning appellate practice, which will be followed by a reception for the judges and members of the law school community.