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State v. Johnson

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 31, 2014

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
ANTHONY CHRIS JOHNSON, Defendant

Heard in the Court of Appeals 23 October 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)]

Appeal by defendant from judgment entered on or about 20 November 2013 by Judge Reuben F. Young in Superior Court, Johnston County.

Johnston County. No. 13CRS001749.

Attorney General Roy A. Cooper, III by Assistant Attorney General Brian D. Rabinovitz, for the State.

Reece & Reece by Michael J. Reece, for defendant-appellant.

STROUD, Judge. Judges GEER and BELL concur.

OPINION

STROUD, Judge.

Anthony Chris Johnson (" defendant" ) appeals from a conviction for possession of an immediate precursor chemical knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that the immediate precursor chemical will be used to manufacture methamphetamine. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(d1)(2) (2013). Defendant contends that (1) the trial court erred in ordering defendant's counsel's legal assistant to appear to testify at trial; and (2) his trial counsel did not provide effective assistance of counsel due to a conflict of interest. Finding prejudicial error, we hold that defendant is entitled to a new trial.

I. Background

The State's evidence showed that on the morning of 3 April 2013, defendant called James Best and asked him to purchase a box of Sudafed for him. That afternoon, defendant drove Best to a Walmart store. Defendant's wife, Tina Lynn, rode in the front passenger seat. Best entered the Walmart and bought a box of Sudafed. Best returned to the car and gave the box of Sudafed to defendant. Defendant then drove Lynn and Best to a Walgreens store. Defendant entered the Walgreens, leaving Lynn and Best in the car.

After receiving a report of possible drug activity, Officer Sean Cook arrived in the Walgreens parking lot. Officer Cook approached defendant as he was exiting the Walgreens and walking toward the car in which Lynn and Best were waiting. Officer Cook asked defendant if he could search his person, and defendant consented. Officer Cook found a pill in a clear container and car keys in defendant's pockets. Officer Cook asked defendant if he could search the car, and defendant consented. After Officer Cook directed Lynn and Best to leave the car, Officer Cook conducted a search of the car and found three boxes of Walgreens instant cold packs, three cans of starter fluid, a four-pack of Energizer Ultimate lithium batteries, a 26-ounce can of table salt, and a box of pseudoephredine hydrochloride tablets. Officer Cook arrested defendant for possession of methamphetamine precursors.

On or about 5 August 2013, a grand jury indicted defendant for possession of an immediate precursor chemical, pseudoephredine, knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that the immediate precursor chemical will be used to manufacture methamphetamine. See N.C. Gen. Stat. ยง 90-95(d1)(2). Defendant pled not guilty. At trial, the State proffered expert testimony that all of the items found by Officer Cook are necessary to manufacture methamphetamine. The State also used testimony by Margarita Martinez, defendant's counsel's legal assistant, to authenticate defendant's written confession of " full responsibility" for the charge against him. On or about 20 November 2013, a jury found defendant guilty of possession of an immediate precursor chemical knowing, or having reasonable cause to believe, that the immediate ...


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