by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
In a 5-2 ruling, the N.C. Supreme Court is allowing a Lincoln County man to get a new trial on charges of online solicitation of sex from a teenage boy. Justices ruled that the trial court had made a mistake by not instructing the jury about the possible defense of entrapment.
Defendant David Alan Keller thought he was emailing a 15-year-old boy in 2015 when he actually was trading messages with an undercover Lincolnton police detective. The discussion involved discussion of oral and anal sex.
… [A]t least part of the jury’s deliberation focused on whether defendant had the requisite criminal intent, and the central inquiry for entrapment in this case is whether the criminal intent was originated by defendant or law enforcement. An entrapment instruction would have allowed the jury to determine whether that criminal intent originated in the mind of defendant or Detective Heavner. This question, combined with defendant’s testimony, shows there is a reasonable possibility that a different result would have been reached had the jury been instructed on entrapment.
Justices Paul Newby and Michael Morgan dissented. Newby writes:
The crucial event in this case is the moment defendant learned his prospective sexual partner was underage. Once he learned that fact, he did not end his pursuit. Instead, he continued his undertaking to the point of driving to pick up his young victim.His actions demonstrate his predisposition to pursue such an illegal sexual encounter.Defendant nonetheless claims that he was entrapped by law enforcement. The majority takes defendant at his word and blinds itself to the mountain of uncontested evidence that shows that defendant was predisposed to commit the offense. The majority thus removes from our case law the requirement that a defendant must present sufficient credible evidence of entrapment.