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North Carolina v. Tann

Filed: June 1, 1982.

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
JOHNNY BOYD TANN



Appeal by defendant from Barefoot, Judge. Judgment pronounced 21 May 1981 in Superior Court, Duplin County. Heard in the Court of Appeals 1 March 1982.

Morris, Chief Judge. Judge Vaughn concurs. Judge Hedrick concurs in result.

Morris

Defendant by his first assignment contends that the trial court committed reversible error by failing to instruct the jury regarding what circumstances should be considered in determining the reasonableness of defendant's apprehension of death or great bodily harm.

The reasonableness of the apprehension must be determined by the jury on the basis of all facts and circumstances as they appeared to defendant at the time of the shooting. State v. Ellerbe. 223 N.C. 770, 28 S.E.2d 519 (1944).

Among the circumstances to be considered by the jury are the size, age and strength of defendant's assailant in relation to that of defendant; the fierceness or persistence of the assault upon defendant; whether the assailant had or appeared to have a weapon in his possession; and the reputation of the assailant for danger and violence.

State v. Clay, 297 N.C. 555, 563, 256 S.E.2d 176, 182 (1979). The trial judge told the jurors that " . . . it is for you, the jury, to determine the reasonableness of the defendant's belief from the circumstances as they appeared to him at the time." He did not, however, relate any of the circumstances enumerated in Clay that are to be considered in examining reasonableness.

The chief object contemplated in the charge of the judge is to explain the law of the case, to point out the essentials to be proved on the one side and on the other, and to bring into view the relation of the particular evidence adduced to the particular issue involved. Bird v. U.S., 180 U.S. 356, 45 L. Ed., 570.

(Emphasis added.) State v. Sutton, 230 N.C. 244, 247, 52 S.E.2d 921, 923 (1949), quoting State v. Friddle, 223 N.C. 258, 25 S.E.2d 751 (1943). It has been held that failure to correlate evidence indicating that a victim was a dangerous and violent fighting man with a defendant's plea of self defense, is error. State v. Rummage, 280 N.C. 51, 185 S.E.2d 221 (1971), State v. Riddle, 228 N.C. 251, 45 S.E.2d 366 (1947), State v. Powell, 51 N.C. App. 224, 275 S.E.2d 528 (1981); State v. Hall, 31 N.C. App. 34, 228 S.E.2d 637 (1976); State v. Covington, 9 N.C. App. 595, 176 S.E.2d 872 (1970). Specific incidents tending to show the dangerous and violent character of the victim may be introduced. State v. Johnson, 270 N.C. 215, 154 S.E.2d 48 (1967). Defendant testified that Faison indicated he would "put a pill in defendant" a week before the shooting, and there was evidence that Faison threatened defendant's life on the evening of 13 July before either party arrived at the scene of the shooting. When evidence tending to show the dangerous and violent character of a victim is introduced, the

court, even in the absence of a request, should instruct the jury as to the bearing defendant's knowledge thereof might have on his reasonable apprehension of death or great bodily injury. State v. Rummage, supra; State v. Powell, supra; State v. Hall, supra. Though the trial judge related in his summary some evidence that Faison had threatened defendant prior to the shooting, he failed to establish a relation between the previous incidents and defendant's claim of self defense; indeed, he did not directly explain and apply the law of self-defense to any of the evidence except to say that the jury "should consider . . . [w]hether or not Michael Faison had a weapon in his pocket." This was error.

Our courts, upon finding error in the failure of trial courts to correlate evidence of the victim's dangerous and violent character, have frequently deemed such error nonprejudicial and have declined to order a new trial. State v. Rummage, supra; State v. Powell, supra; State v. Hall, supra; State v. Cole, 31 N.C. App. 673, 230 S.E.2d 588 (1976). We find error in the court's dereliction, but consider it unnecessary to determine whether that error alone demands that defendant be given a new trial, because defendant's second assignment, singly and in conjunction with the first, points to prejudice and grounds for reversal.

Defendant contends that the trial court erred in its instructions to the effect that self defense was unavailable to the defendant if he was the aggressor. Defendant makes this assertion because the testimony of both ...


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