Heard in the Court of Appeals 18 February 2015.
This Decision is not final until expiration of the twenty-one day rehearing period. [North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure 32(b)]
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney General Melissa L. Trippe, for the State.
Glover and Petersen P.A., by Ann B. Petersen, for defendant-appellant.
HUNTER, JR., Robert N., Judge. Judges STEPHENS and TYSON concur.
Appeal by Defendant from a judgment entered 4 March 2014 by Judge Claire V. Hill in Brunswick County Superior Court,
No. 12 CRS 2264.
HUNTER, JR., Robert N., Judge.
Julie Ann English (" Defendant" ) appeals from a judgment after a jury found her guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Defendant contends it was error to deny her motion to dismiss. We disagree.
I. Factual and Procedural History
On 24 February 2014, Defendant was tried before a jury based on an indictment charging her with second-degree murder in Brunswick County. At trial, the State's evidence tended to show the following:
On 27 May 2012, Defendant and her boyfriend, Michael Pate (" Pate" ), had a party celebrating Pate's birthday at their shared residence (" Pate residence" ). Dixie Costlow (" Costlow" ), Defendant's employer, and her son, Timothy Staruch (" Staruch" ), attended the party.
The State called Staruch, who arrived at the party at approximately 1:30 pm, as its first witness. He testified partygoers grilled out, drank alcohol, and swam in the pool. Staruch admitted he did " a little bit of drugs, a little marijuana and a few hits of crack." He observed both Defendant, a casual acquaintance, and Pate, whom he had never previously met, doing drugs and drinking alcohol. After the party ended and the partygoers dispersed, Staruch remained behind to purchase drugs with Defendant and Pate. He asked Pate for a ride to Costlow's house for drug money. Pate admitted he " drank too much that day and he didn't want to get a DUI" so Defendant drove Staruch to Costlow's house, where he obtained the purchase money. He watched as Defendant arranged by phone for a drug dealer to deliver cocaine to the Pate residence. At approximately 9:00 pm, Staruch and Defendant returned to the Pate residence. After Defendant pulled in the driveway, Staruch exited the car and walked up the stairs toward the porch.
Staruch testified just as he reached the top of the steps, Pate came out of the porch door, accusing Staruch of " messing around" with his wife. Staruch testified when Pate " pushed at" him, he " came down off the steps." He observed Defendant step between the two men. After he turned to leave, Staruch " heard" a punch and immediately turned back around. He saw Defendant lying on the ground. He then watched Defendant stand up and resume her argument with Pate. Thinking " she obviously can handle it," Staruch turned and walked away.
As he walked, Staruch heard arguing and sounds of people " running in and out of the house." He stopped about 200 yards away and looked back toward the Pate residence. Although it was dark and trees were in his line of sight, he claimed he could " see and hear silhouettes." Staruch watched a figure run out of the house and into the car; another figure unsuccessfully tried to get into the car. He observed the back-up lights of the car switch on. Thinking Defendant was leaving the house and might stop to pick him up, Staruch turned and continued to walk away from the house. He then heard " a wreck, a boom," and immediately turned around. He saw the car " tilted up" on the porch. Staruch walked back to the Pate residence and observed " most of [Pate's] body . . . ...