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North Carolina v. Hunt

Filed: March 3, 1982.

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
MICHAEL EUGENE HUNT



On appeal by defendant as a matter of right from the judgment of Allsbrook, Judge, entered at the 15 September 1980 Criminal Session, Vance Superior Court. Defendant was charged in an indictment, proper in form, with the first degree murder of Walter Ray. Defendant pleaded not guilty. The jury subsequently found him guilty as charged. Upon the jury's recommendation at the sentencing phase, the trial court imposed the punishment of life imprisonment for defendant's murder conviction.

Copeland, Justice.

Copeland

Defendant brings forward five arguments in his brief wherein he contends that he is entitled to a reversal of his conviction for the trial court's alleged errors in admitting various types of evidence or testimony. To the contrary, we find that, in each instance complained of, the challenged matters were properly admitted for the jury's consideration. We further conclude that defendant received a fair trial free from prejudicial error.

I.

Defendant maintains that, in his closing argument to the jury, the district attorney improperly gave unsworn testimony which tended to bolster the credibility of the chief prosecution witness, William Thomas Edwards. We find no merit in defendant's position. First, defendant's complaint on appeal is not well taken when he failed to make an appropriate objection at trial and did not thereby afford the judge an opportunity to correct the alleged impropriety before the case was submitted to the jury. See State v. Morgan, 299 N.C. 191, 207, 261 S.E.2d 827, 837, cert. denied, 446 U.S. 986, 100 S. Ct. 2971, 64 L. Ed. 2d 844 (1980); 4 Strong's N.C. Index 3d, Criminal Law ยง 102.3 (1976). Second, the record prepared by defendant does not include the entire content of the closing arguments made by both sides, and it is therefore difficult for us to examine, fully and fairly, the context of the isolated statements presented for our determination of the existence of possible prejudice. See State v. Hunter, 297 N.C. 272, 277, 254 S.E.2d 521, 524 (1979). Third, even putting aside the foregoing inadequacies in the record, it is clear beyond the shadow of any doubt that the district attorney's remarks did not transcend the established boundaries of permissible jury argument. As our Court stated in State v. Lynch, 300 N.C. 534, 551, 268 S.E.2d 161, 171 (1980):

Argument of counsel is largely within the control and discretion of the trial judge. Counsel must be allowed wide latitude in the argument of hotly contested cases. Counsel for both sides are entitled to argue to the jury the law and the facts in evidence and all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom. State v. King, 299 N.C. 707, 264 S.E.2d 40 (1980). . . . (Citation omitted.)

Here, the sum and substance of the district attorney's argument was that the testimony of the State's chief witness was credible in light of the overall facts and circumstances of the murder as depicted and corroborated by other independent evidence. We can perceive no error or impropriety in this. See State v. Thompson, 293 N.C. 713, 239 S.E.2d 465 (1977); see also State v. Mullis, 233 N.C. 542, 64 S.E.2d 656 (1951).

II.

Defendant's next assignment of error concerns the admission of medical opinion testimony concerning the nature of self-inflicted wounds. In pertinent part, Dr. Michael Jones testified, and defendant objected and took exception thereto, as follows:

Q. Prior to February 26, 1979, have you had an occasion to examine and study the death of persons as a result of slashing their wrists?

Mr. Smith: Object, Your Honor.

The Court: Overruled.

A. No, sir, this is the first successful case of sui -- well, death by slashing the wrist that I have encountered. . . .

Q. Now, Dr. Jones, have you had an occasion prior to February 26, 1979 to examine patients who have slashed their wrists?

Mr. Smith: Object, Your ...


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