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State v. Hall

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Defendants appeal a conviction of murder.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    If an individual standing in North Carolina shoots and kills another individual standing in another state, the North Carolina resident may only be charged with a crime in the other state.

    Facts.

    North Carolina residents Hall and Dockery (Defendants) shot and killed Andrew Bryson. When the shooting occurred, Defendants were physically standing in the State of North Carolina and Bryson was standing in the State of Tennessee. Hall was charged as a principal in the murder of Bryson and Dockery was charged as an accessory before the fact. At trial, Defendants requested that the court instruct the jury that if the killing took place in North Carolina and if Bryson received the wound and died while in North Carolina, then Defendants were not guilty. Defendants further requested an instruction which provided that if Defendants were in North Carolina and Bryson was in Tennessee at the time of the shooting and subsequent death, then Defendants were not guilty. The trial court refused Defendants’ requested instructions and Defendants were convicted and they appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether an individual standing in North Carolina can only be charged with a crime in another state if the individual is standing in North Carolina shoots and kills another individual in the other state.

    Held.

    Yes. Defendants’ convictions are reversed and the case is remanded for new trial. If an individual standing in North Carolina shoots and kills another individual standing in another state, the North Carolina resident may only be charged with a crime in the other state.

    Discussion.

    Generally, one State cannot enforce the penal or criminal laws of another state. However, if a shooting occurred in one county of a state and death resulted in another county within that same state, then either county could claim jurisdiction over the matter. Some state legislatures have enacted laws which provide that where death occurs outside one state, by reason of an act committed in another state, the latter state may entertain jurisdiction over the matter. In Simpson v. State, 17 S.E. 984 (Ga.1893) the Georgia Supreme Court held that one who, in the State of South Carolina, aims and fires a pistol at another who was in Georgia at the time, is guilty of “shooting at another” although the bullet did actually hit the individual, but instead struck the water in the latter state. There, the court said “the presence of the accused within this State is essential to make his act one which is done in this State, but the presence need not be actual; it may be constructive.” Thus, the court reasoned that if a man in South Carolina fires a bullet at an individual physically located in Georgia, the law regards the shooter as accompanying the bullet after it is discharged and up until it strikes the man located in Georgia. Here, Defendants fired a bullet from within North Carolina, but it struck Bryson, and killed him, when he was in the State of Tennessee. Defendants accompanied the bullet as it entered that state and thus, Defendants may only be tried there for the murder of Bryson. While it is true that the criminal laws of a state can have extra-territorial force, it is for the legislature to determine what acts committed within the boundaries of the state shall be deemed criminal and to provide for their punishment.


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