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State of North Carolina v. Wilson

March 03, 1998

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
HULON LEON WILSON, JR.



Appeal by defendant Hulon Leon Wilson, Jr. from judgment entered 22 May 1996 by Judge Howard E. Manning, Jr., in Durham County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 28 August 1997.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wynn, Judge.

"hen a defendant is indicted for a criminal offense, he may be convicted of the charged offense or a lesser included offense when the greater offense which is charged in the bill of indictment contains all of the essential elements of the lesser." *fn1 Felonious restraint, a lesser included offense of kidnaping, requires proof that the victim was transported in a motor vehicle or other conveyance. *fn2 Because the kidnaping indictment in the subject case fails to charge that the defendant transported the victim by motor vehicle or other conveyance, we must vacate his conviction on the lesser included offense of felonious restraint. However, we remand to the trial court for imposition of judgment of the lesser included offense of false imprisonment which does not require proof of transportation by motor vehicle or other conveyance.

Facts

As a result of an incident which occurred on November 14, 1995, defendant was indicted and tried on May 21, 1996 in the Superior Court of Durham County for first degree kidnaping and assault. At the conclusion of the trial, defendant was acquitted of the assault charge but convicted of felonious restraint, which was submitted to the jury as a lesser included offense under the kidnaping indictment. The trial court sentenced defendant to an active sentence of twenty-five (25) to thirty (30) months imprisonment.

Preliminary Issues

Before we discuss the merits of our decision today, certain litigation facts in this case constrain us to address the preliminary question of whether this issue was properly preserved for our appellate review.

According to the record, defendant in this case did not object to the trial court's submission of felonious restraint to the jury. In fact, during the charge conference, defense counsel asked the court to consider submitting felonious restraint as well as second degree kidnaping and false imprisonment as possible verdicts. Ordinarily, under the invited error doctrine, such action and inaction by defendant would prevent him from now seeking appellate review of the contested issues. *fn3 However, defendant argues that, inasmuch as the indictment in this case is subject to a motion in arrest of judgment and he did not formally waive his right to an indictment, the issue regarding the trial court's submission of the felonious restraint charge to the jury is preserved as a matter of law. We agree.

Where there is a fatal defect in the indictment, verdict or judgment which appears on the face of the record, a judgment which is entered notwithstanding said defect is subject to a motion in arrest of judgment. *fn4 A defect in an indictment is considered fatal if it "wholly fails to charge some offense...or fails to state some essential and necessary element of the offense of which the defendant is found guilty." *fn5 When such a defect is present, it is well established that a motion in arrest of judgment may be made at any time in any court having jurisdiction over the matter, even if raised for the first time on appeal. *fn6 As the indictment in the subject case is being challenged by defendant on the grounds that it is on its face, insufficient to support the offense of which defendant was convicted, we conclude that defendant's failure to object to the submission of the felonious restraint charge is not an impediment to this appeal since such a challenge of the indictment may be made for the first time on appeal.

Having concluded that defendant's failure to object is not fatal to his appeal, we now consider whether defendant, nonetheless, waived his right to challenge the sufficiency of the indictment under which he was convicted by requesting an instruction on felonious restraint. In addressing this issue, we refer to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-642(c) which provides that: Waiver of indictment must be in writing and signed by the defendant and his attorney. The waiver must be attached to or executed upon the bill of indictment.

We also find it instructive that our courts, in applying N.C.G.S. § 15A-642(c), have held that neither a tendering of a guilty plea by a defendant, *fn7 nor the tendering to the trial court of an unsigned waiver, *fn8 could be considered sufficient waivers of a defendant's right to a formal indictment. Guided by such precedent and the plain language of the statute itself, we conclude that defendant's request for an instruction on felonious restraint did not constitute a formal waiver of his right to be charged under a sufficient indictment. Accordingly, we now address the merits of defendant's argument that the indictment charging him with first degree kidnaping was insufficient to support defendant's conviction of felonious restraint.

Discussion

North Carolina courts have long held that in making out an indictment or criminal summons, the state need only allege ultimate facts. *fn9 Evidentiary matters simply need not be alleged. *fn10 However, it is also well settled in this state that "when a defendant is indicted for a criminal offense, he may be convicted of the charged offense or a lesser included offense when the greater offense which is charged in the bill of indictment contains all of the essential elements of the lesser." *fn11 Thus, when the lesser charge has an essential element not alleged in the bill of indictment charging the greater offense, no conviction may be had on the lesser offense. *fn12

The above rule governs when determining the sufficiency of an indictment, unless the legislature has authorized the state to use short-form indictments for the crime in question. *fn13 Only when such authorization is given is the state exempt from the common law rule that it must allege every element of the lesser included charge in order to obtain a conviction pursuant to an indictment charging the greater offense. *fn14 As of yet, the legislature has not adopted a short form indictment for the crime of kidnaping. *fn15 Therefore, in determining the sufficiency of the indictment in the subject case, we are compelled to follow the general common law rule that the state must allege every element of a lesser included offense in order to obtain a conviction under an indictment charging the greater offense.

The body of the indictment in this case charged that defendant did "kidnap Trenda Jean Wilson, a person who had attained the age of 16 years of age, by unlawfully confining and removing her from one place to another, without her consent and for the purpose of holding her hostage and terrorizing ...


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