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State v. Murchison

Supreme Court of North Carolina

June 12, 2014

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
BRUCE TYLER MURCHISON

Heard in the Supreme Court February 18, 2014.

Moore County. Nos. 10CRS53284, 10CRS53470, 11CRS51566. James M. Webb, Judge.

Roy Cooper, Attorney General, by Kimberly N. Callahan, James M. Stanley, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, for the State-appellant.

William B. Gibson for defendant-appellee.

OPINION

Page 357

On discretionary review pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 7A-31 of a unanimous, unpublished decision of the Court of Appeals, __ N.C.App. __, 741 S.E.2d 927 (2013), reversing judgments entered on 8 August 2012 by Judge James M. Webb in Superior Court, Moore County.

MARTIN, Justice.

While on probation, defendant was indicted for first-degree burglary, first-degree kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon. At the resulting hearing, the trial court revoked his probation. The Court of Appeals held, and defendant argues, that the trial court abused its discretion by basing the revocation upon hearsay evidence. The trial court was permitted under statute to consider hearsay evidence in the revocation hearing. Because we conclude that the trial court reasonably exercised its discretion in revoking defendant's probation and activating his previously earned sentence, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals.

On 26 October 2011, defendant pled guilty to two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill (offense date 30 September 2010), assault with a deadly weapon (offense date 13 May 2011), and possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana (offense date 22 September 2010). Defendant was on probation when he committed these offenses. He received sentences of twenty-four to thirty-eight months of imprisonment for each count of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and six to eight months of imprisonment for the remaining convictions. The trial court suspended these sentences and placed defendant on supervised probation for sixty months.

On 2 February and 13 February 2012, defendant's probation officer, Leslie Tyree, filed reports alleging defendant had violated numerous conditions of his probation by, among other things, committing assault with a deadly weapon on 1 February 2012, missing curfews, and failing to attend counseling for his drug and anger problems. Finding defendant in violation of the conditions of his probation, the trial court modified his probation, imposing an active term of ninety days of imprisonment.

Defendant was released from the ninety-day term of imprisonment on 21 May 2012 to continue his term of probation. On 21 June 2012, Officer Tyree filed violation reports alleging defendant had been charged on 17 June 2012 with first-degree burglary, first-degree kidnapping, and assault with a deadly weapon. The matter was heard in Superior Court, Moore County, on 8 August 2012. Officer Tyree testified over objection that defendant's mother had called her and reported that defendant had " broke[n] into her house and held her and his girlfriend in a closet, and he had knives." Officer Tyree further testified that she believed defendant would kill somebody if allowed to remain on probation. The State also introduced a computer printout from the Administrative Office of the Courts indicating that defendant had been indicted for first-degree burglary in Lee County and that the case was set for the week of 6 August 2012. The trial court found that defendant unlawfully, willfully, and without legal justification had violated conditions of his probation by committing one or more subsequent offenses, as alleged in the violation reports. Accordingly, the trial court revoked defendant's probation and activated his suspended sentences.

Defendant appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in revoking his probation because the State failed to produce any evidence other than hearsay in support of the revocation. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, holding that " the evidence presented at the revocation hearing was not competent so 'as to reasonably satisfy the judge in the exercise of his sound discretion that the defendant ha[d] willfully violated a valid condition of probation.'" State v. Murchison, __ N.C.App. __, 741 S.E.2d 927, 2013 WL 1899615, at *4 (2013) (unpublished) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). We allowed

Page 358

the State's petition for ...


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