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State v. Royster

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

October 21, 2014


 Heard in the Court of Appeals August 11, 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)]

Mecklenburg County. No. 10 CRS 251563.

Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney General Amar Majmundar, for the State.

Law Office of Margaret C. Lumsden PLLC, by Margaret C. Lumsden, for defendant-appellant.

McCULLOUGH, Judge. Judges ERVIN and DILLON concur.


Page 578


Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 29 May 2013 by Judge W. Robert Bell in Mecklenburg County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 11 August 2014.

Defendant Ellis Eugene Royster appeals from a judgment entered based upon his conviction for first degree murder. For the following reasons, we find no error in part and no prejudicial error in part.

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I. Background

On 1 November 2010, a Mecklenburg County Grand Jury indicted defendant on a charge of murdering Amias Bernard Robinson on 12 August 2010.

Defendant's case came on for trial during the 20 May 2013 Criminal Session of Mecklenburg County Superior Court, the Honorable W. Robert Bell, Judge presiding.

The State's evidence at trial tended to show the following: Alvin Alexander testified that at 4:00 p.m. on 12 August 2010, he met his friend Randall Henry (otherwise known as " Randy" ) at defendant's residence on Eastbrook Road in Charlotte, North Carolina. Defendant lived with his grandmother " Miss D" and grandfather " Mr. D." " Miss D" was known in the neighborhood as the " Candy Lady." Alvin went into defendant's bedroom where defendant and Randy played a video game while Alvin smoked marijuana. Sometime thereafter, Alvin, Randy, and defendant went outside to the end of defendant's driveway to smoke cigarettes. Shariff Baker, a resident of defendant's neighborhood, approached Alvin, Randy, and defendant and told them that " a couple guys took his money from him." Alvin testified that Shariff had stated that " [h]e was going to buy some weed from them, and they just pulled off with his money."

Shariff testified that on 12 August 2010, he tried to buy $10.00 worth of marijuana from Jadarius McCall, otherwise known as " J.D." Shariff was standing in front of a house on Eastbrook Road when J.D. drove by in a blue car. Three other people were in the car with him -- a man by the name of Delehay, Tim, and an unidentified male. Shariff gave $10.00 to Delehay, the group told Shariff to get out of their way, and J.D. drove off without giving Shariff marijuana or returning his money. Shariff was upset and began walking towards defendant's residence. Once Shariff saw defendant, he told defendant that J.D., Delehay, and Tim had taken his money. Defendant told Shariff that he " would get it back for me."

Alvin testified that he knew Tim's stepfather, Chris, and that he told Shariff that he would talk with Chris. Alvin drove to Chris' house, " told Chris that his stepson had just took one of the guy's money out of the neighborhood. And [Chris] said he would take care of it." After their conversation, Alvin then drove back to defendant's residence. Several people from the neighborhood were standing outside. A group of three to four teenage girls, including the victim's cousins, were pushing a baby stroller holding the victim, Amias Robinson.

Alvin testified that while he was in the driveway of defendant's residence, he saw a blue Oldsmobile drive past them. Shariff also testified that " J.D.'s car came down the street." Randy pointed out the vehicle and stated, " [t]here he go right there." Shariff testified that Randy's comment meant, " [t]hat those are the people that took my money."

Defendant was standing at the end of the driveway when he pulled a gun from his rear waistband area. Alvin and Shariff witnessed defendant start firing shots " up the street" towards J.D.'s vehicle. Alvin heard approximately ten shots and then heard a girl scream " [y]ou shot my cousin; you shot my cousin." Defendant repeatedly stated " I'm going to jail" and Randy asked defendant, " [w]hy did you start shooting[?]" Shariff testified that, after the shooting, defendant stated, " I f***ed up." Thereafter, defendant walked quickly down the street and returned within a couple of minutes without a gun. Alvin left the scene in his vehicle soon after the shooting.

Sergeant Michael Abbondanza with the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department (" CMPD" ) testified that, on 12 August 2010, he was dispatched in response to a call that a baby had been shot and was the first officer to arrive on the scene. Sergeant Abbondanza testified that, when he arrived at a residence on Eastbrook Road, there were fifteen to twenty people in the street. Thereafter, he found the victim lying on the front porch with what appeared to be a gunshot wound through his neck.

The victim of the stray bullet, Amias Robinson, was born on 8 July 2008. In August 2010, Amias' mother had made arrangements with her cousins to watch Amias in Charlotte, North Carolina. She received a phone call

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on 12 August 2010, urging her to go to the hospital because Amias had been shot after he had been taken to the " Candy Lady." Amias died on 16 August 2010 as the result of a gunshot wound to the neck.

Todd Norhoff, an expert in the field of firearms and tool mark analysis with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Crime Laboratory, testified that he analyzed eleven (11) spent shell casings found at the scene of the crime. The casings were 9 millimeter Luger Remington Peters casings. All eleven casings were found to have been discharged from the same firearm.

Defendant testified on his own behalf. On 12 August 2010, defendant lived with his grandmother, the " Candy Lady," at 5826 Eastbrook Road. Defendant picked up Randy and Alvin and went to defendant's residence to play video games. Around 5:00 p.m. or 6:00 p.m., the three went outside and stood in the driveway, waiting on someone to bring them marijuana. The " weed man" came by defendant's residence, sold them $80.00 worth of marijuana, and left. Defendant testified that he gave Randy half of the marijuana and then went inside his house, leaving Randy and Alvin outside. Defendant was inside the house with his baby's mother, uncle, grandmother, and grandfather. Twenty-five minutes later, defendant testified that he heard 10 gunshots. He had not seen Randy or Alvin during this period of time. After he heard the gunshots, ...

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