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State v. Goodman

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 5, 2017


          Heard in the Court of Appeals 6 September 2017.

         Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 25 March 2016 by Judge Milton F. Fitch, Jr. in Gates County Superior Court. No. 10 CRS 50160.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Amar Majmundar, for the State.

          Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defender Daniel L. Spiegel, for defendant-appellant.

          ELMORE, Judge.

         Ernest Lee Goodman (defendant) appeals from a judgment entered after a jury convicted him of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicting serious bodily injury. His sole contention on appeal is that the trial court erred by allegedly failing to exercise its discretion when it responded "no" to a juror's inquiry at the start of the third day of trial about whether jurors may question trial witnesses. Because defendant failed to object at trial, he failed to preserve for our review any issue arising from the trial court's denial of the juror's request. Recognizing this, defendant alternatively requests that we invoke our discretionary authority under Appellate Rule 2 to suspend the issue-preservation requirements of Appellate Rule 10 and conduct a merits-review of his argument. Because defendant has failed to demonstrate his alleged error warrants the extraordinary measure of suspending our Appellate Rules, and because we conclude it would be inappropriate to invoke Appellate Rule 2 in this particular case, in our discretion we decline defendant's request. Accordingly, we dismiss his unpreserved alleged error and appeal.

         I. Background

         During the evening of 30 January 2009, Blane Riddick, a morbidly obese paraplegic, was shot twelve times in his bedroom while he was bedridden in his family's home in Gates, North Carolina. About twenty years earlier, Riddick was shot in the back while living in New York City, rendering him a paraplegic. He moved back into his parents' house in North Carolina a few years later. As a result of his New York gunshot wound, Riddick required substantial medical care and assistance. Rhonda Hurdle, an ex-girlfriend to both Riddick and defendant, served as Riddick's nurse and regularly attended to his medical needs for payment.

         The State's evidence tended to show that, on the evening of the shooting, defendant dropped Hurdle off at Riddick's house to attend to his medical needs. Once Hurdle finished changing Riddick's bandages and bedding about an hour or two later, Riddick asked his brother and neighbor, Ben Riddick, to drive Hurdle home. As soon as Ben dropped off Hurdle, she called Riddick. While Hurdle was speaking on the phone with Riddick, she heard three gun shots, immediately hung up, and called 911.

         The State's evidence also tended to show that Riddick's neighborhood friend, Patricia Howell, believed she saw defendant running from Riddick's home around the time of the shooting; that defendant's vehicle was found abandoned in a field near Riddick's house; that on two separate occasions, defendant confessed to two of his ex-girlfriends, Hurdle and April Pierce, that he shot Riddick and threatened their lives if they ever told anyone; and that, after shooting Riddick, defendant fled on foot, buried his guns and clothes in the woods, hitched a ride home from a school friend, Damon Boone, who just happened to be driving by and saw defendant walking down the street, and then defendant hid out in his camper for three days.

         After the first two days of trial, the State had called eight witnesses, including Ben, Howell, Pierce, Hurdle, and Boone, and three initial responders. Near the end of the second day of trial, the State was directly examining its ninth and final witness, Captain Glynda Parker of the Gates County Sheriff's Department. Captain Parker testified that she arrived to the scene after the initial responding officers and EMS, observed the paramedics treat Riddick and get him ready for transport to a hospital, and then spoke with the initial responding officers, who explained they found a shell casing in the hallway and a bullet hole in the television. Captain Parker described the layout of Riddick's house and laid a foundation for about twenty photographs she took at the crime scene, including the several guns, bullets, and bullet holes found at the residence. These photographs were introduced into evidence and published to the jury, ending the second day of trial.

         At the start of day three, a juror asked the trial judge whether the jury may question trial witnesses, and the judge replied that they could not:

THE COURT: Good morning. I understand that somebody had a question they wanted to ...

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