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State v. Triplett

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

September 2, 2014

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
JAMES DOUGLAS TRIPLETT

 Heard in the Court of Appeals April 9, 2014

Editorial Note:

This Decision is not final until expiration of the twenty-one day rehearing period. [North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure 32(b)]

Wilkes County. Nos. 09 CRS 54801, 10 CRS 405.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney General John H. WattersMr., for the State.

Appellate Defender Mr. Staples S. Hughes, by Assistant Appellate Defender Mr. David W. Andrews, for defendant-appellant.

McCULLOUGH, Judge. Judges ELMORE and DAVIS concur.

OPINION

Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 18 February 2013 by Judge Edgar B. Gregory in Wilkes County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 9 April 2014.

McCULLOUGH, Judge.

James Douglas Triplett (" defendant" ) appeals from the judgment entered upon his conviction for first degree felony murder. For the following reasons, we grant a new trial.

I. Background

On 19 April 2010, a Wilkes County Grand Jury indicted defendant on charges of first degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and first degree burglary. Following various pretrial motions by defendant, defendant's case came on for jury trial in Wilkes County Superior Court on 4 February 2013, the Honorable Edgar B. Gregory, Judge presiding.

The evidence at trial tended to show that after a day of drinking and drug use, defendant, his brother Eddie Triplett, and two other men, Ben Watson and Dillon Walsh, went to the residence of Bruce Barnes (" victim" ) on the evening of 9 December 2009 in search of drugs. While present at victim's residence, the men got into a skirmish with victim, during which defendant fatally stabbed victim.

At trial, the State prosecuted the case on the theory that defendant, Eddie, Ben, and Dillon had planned to rob victim of his drugs and defendant killed victim in perpetration of the robbery. Defendant, on the other hand, maintained throughout trial that he was ignorant of any plan to rob victim. Defendant testified that he agreed to go to victim's house to get high and passed out on the way to victim's house. Defendant did not recall anything from the ride to victim's house. Defendant testified he woke up and came to when he heard Dillon holler " He's got a gun. He's got a gun." At that point, defendant realized Eddie and Dillon were in a fight with victim and he entered the fight. Defendant testified he did not intend to kill victim but stabbed victim to protect Eddie, Dillon, and himself.

On 18 February 2013, the jury returned verdicts finding defendant guilty of robbery with a dangerous weapon, second degree burglary, and first degree murder under the first degree felony murder rule. The trial court then arrested judgment on defendant's convictions for robbery with a dangerous weapon and second degree burglary and entered judgment on defendant's conviction for first degree felony murder. Defendant was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. Defendant gave oral notice of appeal in open court following sentencing.

II. Discussion

Now on appeal, defendant raises the following two issues: whether the trial court erred by: (1) preventing defendant from cross-examining his sister, Teresa Ogle, with a recording of a voicemail message she left for defendant's other sister in order to attack Ogle's ...


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