in the Court of Appeals 28 November 2017.
by defendant from judgments entered 7 June 2016 by Judge
Gregory R. Hayes in Mecklenburg County Nos. 13 CRS 239335-36;
239339; 239612-16; 239618, 239620-23; 239625-31; 240427-30
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General Peter A. Regulski, for the State.
& Petersen, P.A., by Ann B. Petersen, for
the plain language of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-51.4(1) does
not require a causal nexus between the disqualifying felony
and the circumstances giving rise to the perceived need for
the use of force, we find no error. Where defendant
stipulated to a disqualifying felony before the charge
conference, the trial court did not commit prejudicial error
in giving a self-defense jury instruction. Where the facts of
this specific case do not show that defendant was prejudiced
by the trial court's limiting of the scope of
defendant's questioning of prospective jurors during
voir dire, we find no prejudicial erorr but express
our concern that the trial court flatly prohibited
questioning as to issues of race and implicit bias during
voir dire. Where defendant opened the door to
certain evidence, the trial court did not err in denying
defendant's motion in limine and allowing the State to
introduce rebuttal evidence. We find no prejudicial error in
the judgments of the trial court.
3:00 a.m. on 24 September 2013, defendant Ramar Crump and
Jamel Lewis gained entrance to an illegal gambling house on
Old Pineville Road in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina and
held about a dozen patrons at gunpoint. Both defendant and
Lewis had firearms. One by one, defendant and Lewis had the
patrons hand over their valuables, including wallets, cell
phones, identification cards, credit cards, debit cards, and
cash. They also had each patron, except for a woman and a man
with a bad leg, strip down to his underwear, and then marched
them all into the men's restroom and barricaded them in
while defendant and Lewis escaped.
smoke began to seep under the bathroom door, two people,
including Matios ("Mat") Tegegne, went up through
the false ceiling into the kitchen and let everyone out. The
"smoke" had come from a fire extinguisher that had
been sprayed around the room. Everyone's clothes and
belongings were gone. With a cell phone provided by a
passerby, calls were made requesting clothes and spare car
keys or rides home. No one reported the robbery to the
Smith, whose daughter had attended the poker game on Old
Pineville Road on the night of the robbery, also knew Mat.
Mat had his phone stolen during the robbery, but had
purposefully not deactivated his phone in order to track it.
Smith told Mat he had been receiving text messages from
Mat's phone from people he believed to be the robbers who
were looking for another poker game to rob. Smith told Mat he
intended to invite them to a "fake poker game and report
them, call the cops."
early morning hours of 29 September 2013, Smith received a
response from Mat's phone to a group text he sent earlier
about the location of a new, but nonexistent, poker game on
North Tryon Road (the "bait game"). When Smith
arrived at the bait game located at a mixed-use office and
commercial building on North Tryon Street, he looked for a
Silver Mustang, intending to confront the passenger whom he
believed to be in possession of Mat's phone. However, as
he approached the Mustang, he saw through the open window
that the driver had a handgun.
parked across the street in the Amtrak station lot, called
911, and told the emergency operator "there were two
gentlemen in a car with loaded guns, and I thought they were
intending to rob someone." From the Amtrak lot, Smith
watched police cars arrive. Then, he heard gunshots. First,
he heard what sounded like handgun fire, then he heard what
sounded like shotgun and large-caliber handgun fire. He then
watched the Mustang "screech" out of the lot. Smith
walked across the street and told police officers he made the
police car with lights and sirens activated pursued the
Mustang down Tryon Street. The owner and driver of the car
was defendant. Lewis was in the back seat and another
passenger was in the front seat. After a low-speed pursuit
which continued for some distance, the Mustang ran over stop
sticks that had been placed by police and came to a stop. All
three men got out of the car and were taken into custody.
the occupants of the car were placed under arrest, officers
searched the Mustang. Both right side tires were missing, the
passenger side window was shattered, and there was a series
of bullet holes along the passenger side of the car. Officers
found a six-shot .38-caliber revolver in the driver's
seat with six spent shells in the chambers. Officers also
found credit cards and the identification cards of several
poker players who had been robbed. In the trunk of the car,
officers found three firearms. They also found four cell
phones and mail addressed to defendant. Victims of the 24
September robbery on Old Pineville road identified wallets,
credit cards, and debit cards found in the Mustang as their
October 2013, the Mecklenburg County Grand Jury indicted
defendant on five offenses committed on 29 September 2013:
two counts of assault with a deadly weapon with the intent to
kill ("AWDWIK"), two counts of assault on a
government official with a firearm, and possession of a
firearm by a convicted felon. On 28 October 2013, the grand
jury indicted defendant on twenty-four offenses committed
during the poker game robbery on 24 September 2013: eleven
counts of armed robbery and eleven counts of second-degree
kidnapping, conspiring with Lewis to commit armed robbery,
and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. All charges
were joined for trial.
case came on for trial at the 16 May 2016 Criminal Term of
the Mecklenburg County Superior Court, the Honorable Gregory
Hayes, Judge presiding. At the close of the State's
evidence, the trial court dismissed the charges of armed
robbery and second-degree kidnapping as to one victim as well
as the charge of armed robbery as to another victim.
June 2016, the jury found defendant not guilty of two counts
of assaulting a law enforcement officer with a firearm and
guilty of all the remaining charges.
appeal, defendant contends the trial court erred (I) in
overruling his objections to the instruction on self-defense
which barred defendant from claiming self-defense in
circumstances where it was legally available; (II) by
misapprehending the nature of the "stake-out"
questions, thereby depriving defendant of his right to elicit
information during voir dire relevant to the
exercise of cause and peremptory challenges; and (III) by
permitting the State to present evidence that the
investigation of certain officers by homicide detectives and
internal affairs agents resulted in no disciplinary actions
or demotions for those officers.
first argues the trial court erred in overruling his
objections to the self-defense instructions and in rejecting
defendant's proposed language. Specifically, defendant
argues the language of the instruction, as a whole, had the
legal effect of negating the defense of self-defense
entirely, and the error was so prejudicial that he is
entitled to a new trial. We disagree.
a jury instruction correctly explains the law is a question
of law, reviewable by this Court de novo."
State v. Barron, 202 N.C.App. 686, 694, 690 S.E.2d
22, 29 (2010) (citing State v. Brame, 136 N.C.App.
170, 174, 523 S.E.2d 424, 427 (1999)). "However, an
error in jury instructions is prejudicial and requires a new
trial only if 'there is a reasonable possibility that,
had the error in question not been committed, a different
result would have been reached at the trial out of which the
appeal arises.' " State v. Castaneda, 196
N.C.App. 109, 116, 674 S.E.2d 707, 712 (2009) (citation
omitted) (quoting N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1443(a) (2007)).
instant case, defendant raised the statutory justifications
of protection of his motor vehicle and self-defense pursuant
to N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 14-51.2, -51.3 as to the
AWDWIK charge. The trial court found that defendant's
evidence, on the other hand, did not show his belief that
entry to his motor vehicle was imminent, and gave N.C.
P.I.-Crim. 308.45 ("All assaults involving deadly
force") and not N.C. P.I.-Crim. 308.80 ("defense of
motor vehicle"), as requested by defendant. The trial
court instructed the jury pursuant to N.C. P.I.-Crim. 308.45
by incorporating the language of N.C. Gen. Stat. §
14-51.4(1), which indicates self-defense based on .1 and .2
is not available "to a person . . . who was attempting
to commit, was committing, or was escaping after the
commission of a felony." See N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 14-51.4(1) (2017).
State requested that the trial court also define for the jury
those felonies which would disqualify defendant's claim
of self-defense, arguing there was ample evidence of
defendant's uncharged felonious conduct, including,
inter alia, the fact that defendant and his
accomplices used a stolen cell phone to ascertain the
location of a poker game to rob. The trial court agreed and
instructed the jury in the words of N.C. G.S. §
14-51.4(1) that self-defense was not available to one engaged
in felonious conduct:
Self-defense is also not available to a person who used
offensive force and who was attempting to commit, was
committing, or was escaping after the commission of a felony.
Robbery with a dangerous weapon, attempted robbery with a
dangerous weapon, conspiracy to commit robbery with a
dangerous weapon, possession of stolen goods, assault with a
deadly weapon ...