in the Court of Appeals 9 March 2017.
by defendant from the judgment entered 7 June 2016 by Judge
Alma L. Hinton in Halifax County Superior Court Halifax
County, No. 15 CRS 50989-91.
Gillette Law Firm, PLLC, by Jeffery William Gillette, for
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General
Shawn Maier, for the State.
Earl Alston ("Defendant") appeals from the judgment
below in which a jury found him guilty of maintaining a
dwelling for keeping or selling controlled substances, and
possession of OxyCodone and Alprazolam. Defendant argues
that the trial court committed plain error when it allowed,
without objection, Deputy Danny Radford ("Deputy
Radford") to give his opinion as to the identity of
three pills found at Defendant's home, when the deputy
was not tendered as an expert and the basis of his
identification was a visual inspection and comparison using a
several days in 2015, Detective Cory Dixon ("Detective
Dixon") of the Roanoke Rapids Police Department and
City-County Drug Task Force received "a lot of
complaints" about "different traffic leaving
Defendant's residence" in Roanoke Rapids, North
Carolina. Detective Dixon began surveillance of
Defendant's residence, and observed Defendant go in and
out of his home "three or four times during the
day", as well as "several people come up to the
residence and stay there for a short stint of time and leave,
" which indicated to him evidence of illegal drug trade.
Detective Dixon then sent a confidential source to
Defendant's residence and observed the confidential
source purchase a controlled substance.
with this knowledge, Detective Dixon obtained and executed a
warrant on Defendant's residence in the early morning
hours of 2 April 2015. There, officers found Defendant and an
unnamed female. Defendant was in his bed. Police located the
following items in their respective locations:
a. Bedroom nightstand next to Defendant - a Schedule I
controlled substance, a .25 caliber Raven Arms pistol,
marijuana, a glass jar that had the odor of marijuana inside
of it, and Garcia y Vega cigar wrappers;
b. Kitchen - digital scales, sandwich bags;
c. Kitchen drawer - the same Schedule I controlled substance,
an Oxycodone pill, and two (2) Alprazolam pills; and
d. Living room - a marijuana roach in the ashtray, and a
security camera set up to observe his front yard.
trial, Deputy Radford of the City-County Task Force testified
that he identified the Alprazolam ...