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State v. Friend

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

January 16, 2018

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
CHARLES ADAM FRIEND

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 18 October 2017.

         Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 27 July 2016 and order entered 1 August 2016 by Judge Robert T. Sumner in Catawba County No. 15 CRS 053927 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Melody R. Hairston, for the State.

          The Law Office of Sterling Rozear, PLLC, by Sterling Rozear, for defendant.

          DIETZ, Judge.

         Defendant Charles Adam Friend appeals his conviction and sentence for assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and first degree burglary.

         As explained below, Friend concedes that his challenge to the admission of his videotaped interrogation must be reviewed for plain error. Under that narrow standard of review, Friend has not shown that "absent the error, the jury probably would have returned a different verdict." State v. Lawrence, 365 N.C. 506, 519, 723 S.E.2d 326, 335 (2012).

         We dismiss Friend's corresponding claim for ineffective assistance of counsel because it involves questions of fact not suited for review on direct appeal. State v. Todd, __ N.C. __, __, 799 S.E.2d 834, 838 (2017).

         Friend also argues that the trial court erred by entering a civil judgment against him for the attorneys' fees incurred by his court-appointed counsel under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7A-455 without providing him with notice and an opportunity to be heard. As explained in more detail below, we agree and therefore vacate that money judgment and remand for further proceedings.

         With respect to counsel fees incurred under § 7A-455, the interests of defendants and their counsel may not always align. Because indigent defendants may feel that the fees charged by counsel were unreasonable in light of the time, effort, or responsibility involved in the case, and because those defendants might reasonably believe-as is the case at various stages of the criminal trial and sentencing-that they may speak only through their counsel, we hold that trial courts must provide criminal defendants, personally and not through their appointed counsel, with an opportunity to be heard before entering a money judgment under § 7A-455. Because Friend was not informed of his right to be heard before the court entered the money judgment in this case, we vacate that judgment and remand for further proceedings.

         Facts and Procedural History

         On 14 July 2015, Friend got into a fight with an acquaintance, André Douglas Gay, during which Friend repeatedly stabbed Gay with a knife. The fight occurred around midnight at Gay's apartment, where Gay was staying with his sister and his girlfriend.

         In Friend's version of events, which the jury heard through the testimony of law enforcement officers and a videotape of Friend's police interrogation, Friend went to Gay's apartment to discuss money that Gay owed him and an argument ensued. According to Friend, Gay came out of the apartment and hit Friend with a floor lamp. After Gay hit Friend with the lamp, the two fell to the ground and into the apartment fighting. At some point during the struggle, Gay grabbed a knife. Seeing this, Friend took out his own knife and stabbed Gay in self-defense.

         In Gay's version of events, the fight began with Friend standing outside Gay's apartment and Gay remaining inside while the two argued through a screen door. During this heated, verbal argument, Friend pulled out his knife and threatened to "gut" Gay. Gay then grabbed a knife ...


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