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State v. Campbell

Supreme Court of North Carolina

June 9, 2017

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
THOMAS CRAIG CAMPBELL

          Heard in the Supreme Court on 20 March 2017.

         On discretionary review pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-31 of a unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals, __ N.C.App. __, 777 S.E.2d 525 (2015), finding no error in part, but vacating in part and remanding a judgment entered on 12 June 2013 by Judge Linwood O. Foust in Superior Court, Cleveland County, after the Supreme Court of North Carolina reversed and remanded the Court of Appeals' prior decision in this case, State v. Campbell, 234 N.C.App. 551, 759 S.E.2d 380 (2014).

          Joshua H. Stein, Attorney General, by Teresa M. Postell, Assistant Attorney General, for the State-appellant.

          Glenn Gerding, Appellate Defender, by Hannah Hall Love, Assistant Appellate Defender, for defendant-appellee.

          MORGAN, Justice.

         This is the second time that this case has made its way to this Court, and yet our resolution of the present appeal does not represent a final ruling on the merits. Instead, for the reasons discussed herein, we reverse and remand this case to the Court of Appeals for an independent assessment of whether that court need and should invoke its discretion under Rule 2 of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure in order to reach the merits of one of defendant's substantive issues on appeal.

         In light of the several previous opinions from this Court and the Court of Appeals in this matter, we will not recount the factual background of this case in detail. The evidence at trial tended to show the following: Overnight on 15 August 2012, certain sound equipment disappeared from Manna Baptist Church in Shelby, North Carolina, and defendant's wallet was found in the area of the church near where some of the missing equipment was kept. Defendant testified that, in the throes of a personal crisis, he entered the unlocked church seeking comfort and sanctuary, spent the night there praying and sleeping, and left the following morning without taking anything except some water. After defendant left the church, he experienced symptoms that led him to believe he was having a heart attack, so he called for emergency services. The emergency medical technician (EMT) who responded to defendant's call for help testified that defendant did not have any sound equipment with him when the EMT arrived. Nonetheless, defendant was subsequently indicted for (1) breaking or entering a place of religious worship with intent to commit a larceny therein and (2) larceny after breaking or entering.

         The procedural history of this case warrants lengthier review. The matter came on for trial at the 10 June 2013 session of Superior Court, Cleveland County, the Honorable Linwood O. Foust, Judge presiding. Defendant moved to dismiss the charges against him at the close of the State's evidence and again at the close of all the evidence. The trial court denied each motion, and the jury returned guilty verdicts on both charges. Defendant appealed, making six arguments of error. The Court of Appeals addressed only two of defendant's contentions, but vacated his larceny conviction and reversed his conviction for breaking or entering. See State v. Campbell, 234 N.C.App. 551, 759 S.E.2d 380 (2014), rev'd and remanded, 368 N.C. 83, 772 S.E.2d 440 (2015). The bases for the Court of Appeals' holdings were its determinations that: (1) when a larceny "indictment alleges multiple owners, one of whom is not a natural person, failure to allege that such an owner has the ability to own property is fatal to the indictment, " such that the larceny indictment was "fatally flawed" for failing to "allege that Manna Baptist Church is a legal entity capable of owning property;" and (2) the State presented insufficient evidence of an essential element of felony breaking or entering a place of worship, to wit: intent to commit larceny. Id. at 555-56, 759 S.E.2d at 384. This Court allowed the State's first petition for discretionary review. See State v. Campbell, 367 N.C. 792, 766 S.E.2d 635 (2014).

In that initial appeal, this Court held
that the larceny indictment alleging ownership of stolen property of Manna Baptist Church sufficiently alleged ownership in a legal entity capable of owning property[, ] . . . . that the State presented sufficient evidence of defendant's criminal intent to sustain a conviction for felony breaking or entering a place of religious worship, and [thus] the trial court properly denied defendant's motions to dismiss.

State v. Campbell, 368 N.C. 83, 88, 772 S.E.2d 440, 444-45 (2015). Accordingly, we reversed the decision below and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of defendant's four remaining issues on appeal. Id. at 88, 772 S.E.2d at 445.

Defendant's remaining issues were that
he was deprived of effective assistance of counsel, because his counsel failed to object to the admission of evidence that defendant had committed a separate breaking or entering offense; [that] the trial court erred in failing to dismiss the larceny charge due to a fatal variance as to the ownership of the property; [that] insufficient evidence supports his larceny conviction; and [that] the trial court violated his constitutional right to a unanimous jury verdict with respect to the larceny charge.

See State v. Campbell, __ N.C.App. __, 777 S.E.2d 525, 528 (2015) (Campbell II). The court found "that the trial court committed no error in convicting defendant of breaking or entering a place of religious worship with intent to commit a larceny therein[, ]" id. at ___, 777 S.E.2d at 534. After rejecting defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim, the court turned to defendant's contention that a fatal variance existed between the allegations in the ...


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