in the Court of Appeals 7 June 2017.
by defendant from judgments entered 17 December 2015 by Judge
Phyllis M. Gorham in Duplin County Superior Court. Duplin
County, Nos. 13 CRS 050960-61
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General Barry Bloch, for the State.
Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate
Defender Wyatt Orsbon, for defendant.
Marie Antoinette Lynch appeals her conviction and sentence on
multiple drug trafficking charges. She argues that the trial
court should have declared a mistrial after a prospective
juror, in the presence of the rest of the jury pool, stated
that "I've seen her (Lynch) around" and "I
believe she did it." The trial court immediately
dismissed that prospective juror and gave a lengthy curative
instruction to the jury pool.
explained below, in light of the trial court's curative
instruction, the trial court's decision not to declare a
mistrial was within the court's sound discretion.
also argues that the there is a clerical error in the
judgment form because the court indicated that it would
arrest judgment on the trafficking by delivery charge but
failed to do so on the judgment form. We reject this argument
because, although the court indeed indicated that it was
"going to arrest judgment" on that charge at trial,
at the sentencing hearing the court stated that it would
instead consolidate all the trafficking charges into a single
sentence. Thus, to the extent there is an error in the
court's judgment, it is not a clerical one. Because this
is the only ground on which Lynch challenges her sentence on
appeal, we find no error in the trial court's judgment.
and Procedural History
State indicted Lynch for a number of drug trafficking
offenses involving the sale of opium. The jury acquitted
Lynch of some charges but found her guilty of trafficking in
opium by sale; trafficking in opium by delivery; trafficking
in opium by possession; and a number of related charges. The
jury also found Lynch guilty of attaining habitual felon
was present for the first day of trial but failed to appear
on later days. After the jury returned the verdict, the court
continued the proceeding in order to sentence Lynch when she
was present. Several weeks later, with Lynch present, the
court consolidated the three trafficking convictions and
sentenced her to 70 to 93 months in prison for those charges
and a concurrent sentence of 67 to 93 months in prison on
other related charges. Lynch timely appealed.
Motion for Mistrial
first argues that the trial court erred by denying her motion
for a mistrial after a prospective juror stated in the
presence of the jury pool that he had seen Lynch around and
"I believe she did it." Lynch contends that the
prospective juror's statement prejudiced the jury and
that the trial court failed to conduct an adequate inquiry of
all jurors to determine whether they heard the statement, the
effect of such statement, and whether they could disabuse
their minds of the harmful effects of the comments. We
well established that "[t]he judge must declare a
mistrial upon the defendant's motion if there occurs
during the trial an error or legal defect in the proceedings,
or conduct inside or outside the courtroom, resulting in
substantial and irreparable prejudice to the defendant's
case." State v. McCollum, 157 N.C.App. 408,
415, 579 S.E.2d 467, 471 (2003), aff'd, 358 N.C.
132, 591 S.E.2d 519 (2004). But "[t]he decision whether
to grant a motion for mistrial rests within the sound
discretion of the trial judge and will not ordinarily be
disturbed on appeal absent a showing of abuse of that
discretion." State v. Boyd, 321 N.C. 574, 579,
364 S.E.2d 118, 120 (1988). "An abuse of discretion
occurs only upon a showing that the judge's ruling was so
arbitrary that it could not have been the result of a
reasoned decision." State v. Salentine, 237
N.C.App. 76, 81, 763 S.E.2d 800, 804 (2014) (citation and
quotation marks omitted).
prospective juror made the unsolicited statement during jury
selection that "I've seen her around Beulaville, I
believe she did it." Lynch then moved for a mistrial,
arguing that the statement irreparably prejudiced the jury.
The trial court denied Lynch's motion and indicated that
it would instruct the jury to cure ...