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State v. Brawley

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

October 17, 2017

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
DYQUAON KENNER BRAWLEY, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 7 September 2017.

         Appeal by Defendant from judgment entered 21 September 2016 by Judge Christopher W. Bragg in Rowan County No. 15 CRS 055547 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Elizabeth Leonard McKay, for the State.

          Appellate Defender G. Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defender Amanda S. Zimmer, for Defendant.

          DILLON, JUDGE.

         Dyquaon Kenner Brawley ("Defendant") appeals from the trial court's judgment convicting him of larceny from a merchant. Defendant challenges the trial court's jurisdiction stemming from an alleged error in his indictment. After thorough review, we vacate the judgment on jurisdictional grounds.

         I. Background

         In September of 2015, Defendant was caught on surveillance stealing clothing from a Belk's department store in Salisbury. Defendant removed the security tags from multiple shirts before fleeing the premises.

         A grand jury indicted Defendant for larceny from a merchant. A jury convicted him of the charge. Defendant timely appealed.

         II. Summary

         The charging indictment in this case identifies the victim as "Belk's Department Stores, an entity capable of owning property." On appeal, Defendant argues that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to render a verdict against him because the charging indictment failed to adequately identify the victim of the larceny. Based on jurisprudence from our Supreme Court and our Court as explained below, we are compelled to agree. We therefore vacate Defendant's conviction.

         III. Analysis

         We review the sufficiency of an indictment de novo. See State v. Sturdivant, 304 N.C. 293, 309, 283 S.E.2d 719, 730 (1981). "Under a de novo review, the court considers the matter anew and freely substitutes its own judgment for that of the lower tribunal." State v. Biber, 365 N.C. 162, 168, 712 S.E.2d 874, 878 (2011).

         "It is hornbook law that a valid bill of indictment [returned by a grand jury] is a condition precedent to the jurisdiction of the Superior Court to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant, and to give authority to the court to render a valid judgment." State v. Ray, 274 N.C. 556, 562, 164 S.E.2d 457, 461 (1968) (emphasis added).[1] "To be sufficient under our Constitution, an indictment must allege lucidly and accurately all the essential elements of the offense endeavored to be charged." State v. Hunt, 357 N.C. 257, 267, 582 S.E.2d 593, 600 (2003) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Therefore, "[a] conviction based on an invalid indictment must be vacated." State v. Campbell, 368 N.C. 83, 86, 772 S.E.2d 440, 443 (2015).

         In the present case, the jury convicted Defendant of larceny from a merchant under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-72.11(2). One essential element of any larceny is that the defendant "took the property of another." State v. Coats, 74 ...


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