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State v. Holloman

Supreme Court of North Carolina

June 9, 2017

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
JOSHUA EARL HOLLOMAN

          Heard in the Supreme Court on 11 April 2017.

         On discretionary review pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-31 of a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals, __ N.C.App. __, 786 S.E.2d 328 (2016), finding prejudicial error in a judgment entered on 27 April 2015 by Judge Donald W. Stephens in Superior Court, Wake County, and awarding defendant a new trial.

          Joshua H. Stein, Attorney General, by Joseph L. Hyde, Assistant Attorney General, for the State-appellant.

          Glenn Gerding, Appellate Defender, by Amanda S. Zimmer, Assistant Appellate Defender, for defendant-appellee.

          ERVIN, Justice.

         The issue before this Court is whether the Court of Appeals erred by determining that the trial court committed prejudicial error in the course of instructing the jury concerning the right of self-defense. After carefully considering the record in light of the applicable law, we hold that the trial court's self-defense instructions were not erroneous, reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals to the contrary, and remand this case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of defendant's remaining challenge to the trial court's judgment.

         During the early morning hours of 1 January 2014, defendant Joshua Earl Holloman shot Darryl Anthony Bobbitt a number of times using a .45 caliber handgun at the corner of Rock Quarry Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard in Raleigh. According to Mr. Bobbitt, he and Mariah Mann, whom he believed to be his girlfriend, went to a bar to celebrate the imminent arrival of the New Year on the evening of 31 December 2013. Shortly after midnight, Mr. Bobbitt decided to wait in his vehicle until the time that the bar closed and Ms. Mann was ready to leave given that relations between the two of them had become strained during the course of the evening. After Ms. Mann left the bar, the two of them returned to Mr. Bobbitt's home, where they began to argue. Eventually, Ms. Mann left Mr. Bobbitt's home on foot. After his mother and stepfather failed to induce Ms. Mann to return to the family home, Mr. Bobbitt began searching for Ms. Mann and eventually located her near some woods along Martin Luther King Boulevard in Raleigh.

         Upon locating Ms. Mann, Mr. Bobbitt exited his car and crossed the road for the purpose of attempting to persuade Ms. Mann to enter his vehicle. In view of the fact that Ms. Mann appeared to be adhering to his request, Mr. Bobbitt reversed course and began walking back to his vehicle. As he did so, Mr. Bobbitt heard someone say, "Oh, you put your hands on her." According to Mr. Bobbitt:

Once I heard that, I turned around. I looked back, saw the gun, so of course I had my gun. I turned back around, reached for my gun, and once I turned back around, I was already shot.
I got shot, stumbled. Next thing I know, I'm looking at the pavement, and I just see somebody standing over me.

         Mr. Bobbitt denied having fired any shots from his own weapon. Mr. Bobbitt sustained four gunshot wounds, two of which entered his stomach, one of which entered his left leg, and one of which pierced his right arm.

         After confirming Mr. Bobbitt's account of the events leading up to the confrontation, Ms. Mann testified that, while Mr. Bobbitt was trying to get her to enter his car, she was attempting to call defendant, with whom she had also been romantically involved and with whom she had been in contact earlier in the evening for the purpose of requesting that he come get her. As she attempted to contact defendant, Mr. Bobbitt took her phone out of her hand. Upon arriving at the location at which Ms. Mann and Mr. Bobbitt were standing, defendant parked his car, got out of his vehicle, and told Ms. Mann to get inside. After complying with defendant's request, Ms. Mann lowered her head and began crying. As she wept, Ms. Mann heard defendant ask Mr. Bobbitt if "he [had] put his hands on [Ms. Mann]" before hearing the firing of several gunshots. After the firing of these gunshots, defendant returned to the car, told Ms. Mann that he thought that he had shot Mr. Bobbitt, and drove away.

         Anna Dajui was driving her daughter, Roxana, home from a New Year's Eve party when a vehicle sped in front of them and stopped in the middle of the street. At that point, the Dajuis saw the driver of the vehicle get out of the car, reach for a firearm, and begin shooting at a second individual who was standing at the intersection of Rock Quarry Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard. After the man fired several shots, the Dajuis saw the second man lying in the roadway.

         Fortuitously, Sergeant Jennings Bunch of the Raleigh Police Department was patrolling in the area and happened to be at the intersection of Rock Quarry Road and Martin Luther King Boulevard at the time that the shooting occurred. Like the Dajuis, Sergeant Bunch saw the driver emerging from a vehicle that had stopped at the intersection. After hearing angry voices and a series of gunshots, Sergeant Bunch saw the driver of the stopped vehicle standing over and pointing a handgun at a second man, who was lying on the ground. Upon making these observations, Sergeant Bunch fired several shots into the air, an action that caused the driver of the vehicle to leave the scene.

         On the other hand, defendant testified that in the early morning hours of 1 January 2014, he received a voice mail and a phone call from Ms. Mann, who appeared to be in a distressed condition, asking defendant to pick her up on Martin Luther King Boulevard. After arriving at the indicated location, defendant observed Ms. Mann walking on the sidewalk while being followed by another individual. Upon reaching Ms. Mann's location, defendant stopped his vehicle beside her, exited his vehicle while holding his gun by his side, and told Ms. Mann to get into his vehicle. When he noticed that Ms. Mann was crying and that there was blood on her face, defendant asked the man walking behind her whether "he [had] put his hands on her, " stepped closer to the man after failing to hear any response, and repeated his question. By the time that he stepped toward the man, that individual turned around towards him and "open[ed] fire" upon defendant. In light of the fact that he feared for his life, defendant fired his weapon "[m]aybe three to five times" in an attempt to defend himself. After the man fell to the ground, defendant stood over him for a brief period of time. Upon hearing gunfire, defendant left the scene and went to the residence of his mother, where he was apprehended later that morning.

         On 1 January 2014, an arrest warrant charging defendant with assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill and inflicting serious injury was issued. On 24 February 2014, the Wake County grand jury returned a bill of indictment charging defendant with assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to kill and inflicting serious injury. The charge against defendant came on for trial before the trial court and a jury at the 20 April 2015 criminal session of the Superior Court, Wake County.

         At the jury instruction conference, defendant's trial counsel requested the trial court to instruct the jury concerning the law of self-defense and defense of another, among other subjects.[1] More specifically, defendant requested the trial court to instruct the jury that:

The defendant would be excused of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill inflicting serious injury on the ground of self-defense if: First, it appeared to the defendant and the defendant believed it to be necessary to assault the victim in ...

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