ANNOTATED RULES OF NORTH CAROLINA
Copyright (c) 2010 by Matthew Bender & Company, Inc.
a member of the LexisNexis Group.
*** THIS DOCUMENT REFLECTS CHANGES RECEIVED THROUGH NOVEMBER 1, 2010. ***
*** ANNOTATIONS CURRENT THROUGH JULY 30, 2010. ***
GENERAL RULES OF PRACTICE FOR THE SUPERIOR AND DISTRICT COURTS
N.C. Super. Ct. Rule 24 (2010)
Review Court Orders that may amend this rule.
Rule 24. Pretrial conference in capital cases
There shall be a pretrial conference in every case in which the defendant stands charged with a crime punishable by death. No later than ten days after the superior court obtains jurisdiction in such a case, the district attorney shall apply to the presiding superior court judge or other superior court judge holding court in the district, who shall enter an order requiring the prosecution and defense counsel to appear before the court within forty-five days thereafter for the pretrial conference. Upon request of either party at the pretrial conference the judge may for good cause shown continue the pretrial conference for a reasonable time.
At the pretrial conference, the court and the parties shall consider:
(1) simplification and formulation of the issues, including, but not limited to, the nature of the charges against the defendant, and the existence of evidence of aggravating circumstances;
(2) timely appointment of assistant counsel for an indigent defendant when the State is seeking the death penalty; and
(3) such other matters as may aid in the disposition of the action.
The judge shall enter an order that recites that the pretrial conference took place, and any other actions taken at the pretrial conference.
This rule does not affect the rights of the defense or the prosecution to request, or the court's authority to grant, any relief authorized by law, including but not limited to appointment of assistant counsel, in advance of the pretrial conference.
HISTORY: Adopted April 7, 1994, effective June 1, 1994.
RIGHT TO BE PRESENT NOT IMPLICATED. --The pretrial conference required in capital cases by this Rule takes place before the jury panel is selected and sworn and is not a stage of the trial; thus, defendant's right to be present at every stage of his trial was not implicated by Rule 24 pretrial conference. State v. Chapman, 342 N.C. 330, 464 S.E.2d 661 (1995), cert. denied, 518 U.S. 1023, 116 S. Ct. 2560, 135 L. Ed. 2d 1077 (1996).
AGGRAVATING CIRCUMSTANCES. --While this rule requires the trial court and the parties to consider the existence of evidence of aggravating circumstances, nothing in the rule intimates that the prosecution must enumerate with finality all aggravating circumstances it will pursue at trial, nor can a trial court require the prosecution to declare which aggravating circumstances it will rely upon at the punishment phase. State v. Chapman, 342 N.C. 330, 464 S.E.2d 661 (1995), cert. denied, 518 U.S. 1023, 116 S. Ct. 2560, 135 L. Ed. 2d 1077 (1996).
THE PRETRIAL CONFERENCE IS AN ADMINISTRATIVE DEVICE intended to clarify the charges against the defendant and assist the prosecutor in determining whether any aggravating circumstances exist which justify seeking the death penalty. Capital defendants do not stand to lose or gain any rights at the conference. State v. Chapman, 342 N.C. 330, 464 S.E.2d 661 (1995), cert. denied, 518 U.S. 1023, 116 S. Ct. 2560, 135 L. Ed. 2d 1077 (1996).
FAILURE OF DISTRICT ATTORNEY TO APPLY FOR CONFERENCE. --As a sanction for the district attorney's failure to timely file a petition for a pretrial conference, the trial court exceeded its authority by prohibiting the state from seeking the death penalty where defendant was charged with first-degree murder. State v. Rorie, 348 N.C. 266, 500 S.E.2d 77 (1998).
Prosecutor violated N.C. Gen. R. Prac. Super. & Dist. Ct. 24, 2001 Ann. R. N.C. 74. by failing to hold a special pre-trial conference where defendant had been charged with first degree murder. State v. Matthews, 358 N.C. 102, 591 S.E.2d 535 (2004).
Because defendant failed to show sufficient prejudice resulting from the untimeliness of his conference under Gen. R. Pract. Super. & Dist. Cts. 24, 2009 Ann. R. N.C. 21, to warrant declaring his cases noncapital, the trial court's rulings permitting the cases to proceed capitally were proper. State v. Defoe, 364 N.C. 29, 691 S.E.2d 1 (2010).
The 2001 amendments to the capital sentencing statutes, amending G.S. 15A-2000(a) and enacting G.S. 15A-2004, revoked the statutory mandate that provided the rationale for the North Carolina v. Rorie, 348 N.C. 266, decision which result in trail court's having the inherent authority to enforce Gen. R. Pract. Super. & Dist. Cts. 24, 2009 Ann. R. N.C. 21, by declaring a case noncapital in appropriate circumstances when a defendant has made a sufficient showing of prejudice resulting from the State's delay in holding the Rule 24 conference. State v. Defoe, 364 N.C. 29, 691 S.E.2d 1 (2010).
TRIAL COURT EXCEEDED ITS AUTHORITY. --Trial court exceeded its authority under N.C. Gen. R. Prac. Super. & Dist. Ct. 24 by declaring a case noncapital based upon the court's view of the insufficiency of the evidence of defendant's guilt regarding the underlying charge of first-degree murder. State v. Seward, 362 N.C. 210, 657 S.E.2d 356 (2008).
CITED in State v. Morgan, 359 N.C. 131, 604 S.E.2d 886 (2004).
For the previous five days, I have spent what seems like hours on the Internet searching for a legal description of the Rule 24 Hearing as it applies to the prosecution of the accused in a first degree murder case in North Carolina Superior Court. Last night I finally gave up and determined that the rule was not available to be seen anywhere on the ubiquitous cloud over Hong Kong designed to guide us only where we need to be guided. A few of my contacts within the legal and judicial systems were able to give me their interpretations of the what happens during a Rule 24 Hearing, but like you, I wanted more. I wanted a real document describing what a Rule 24 Hearing actually means.
This morning I spent time in a law library and with the help of a caring and most beautiful librarian sporting an ankle length black wool skirt, I was able to produce the document above from one of those many books lining the walls and filling the shelves in the confines of the little chamber. As you can see clearly at the top of the page, the copyright belongs to Mathew Bender & Company, Inc.
I have read through the rule as presented and the case notes provided. Quietly I suggest that you do as well. The most interesting discovery I made about the Rule 24 Hearing came in the first sentence. There shall be a pretrial conference in every case in which the defendant stands charged with a crime punishable by death. Punishable by death, death, which in the true meaning of the word has already manifested into a reality that each of you are aware of, and feeling.