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State v. Gomez Perez

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

July 3, 2018

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
JUAN CARLOS GOMEZ PEREZ

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 2 May 2018.

          Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 1 December 2016 by Judge R. Stuart Albright in Guilford County No. 15 CRS 70255 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Melissa H. Taylor, for the State.

          Paul F. Herzog for defendant.

          DIETZ, JUDGE.

         Defendant Juan Carlos Gomez Perez appeals his convictions on multiple serious drug offenses. He argues that the trial court violated his Confrontation Clause rights and other related constitutional rights when the court permitted him to stipulate to the admission of a forensic laboratory report without first addressing him personally and ensuring that he understood the stipulation would waive those rights.

         As explained below, the trial court was not required to personally address Perez about his stipulation and corresponding waiver. Both Perez and his counsel signed the stipulation. It is for his counsel-not the trial court-to discuss the strategic implications of that stipulation and the effect is has on his right to confront the witnesses against him. If Perez did not understand the implications of the stipulation, his recourse is to pursue a claim for ineffective assistance of counsel. Accordingly, we find no error in the trial court's judgments.

         Facts and Procedural History

         The State indicted Defendant Juan Carlos Gomez Perez for conspiracy to traffic by possession of 400 grams or more of cocaine, trafficking by possession of 400 grams or more of cocaine, and trafficking by transportation of 400 grams or more of cocaine. The charges stemmed from a drug task force investigation that intercepted a truck containing multiple "bricks" of cocaine.

         At trial, the prosecutor informed the court that Perez intended to stipulate to admission of forensic laboratory reports confirming that the substance seized from the truck was cocaine. The following exchange occurred:

THE COURT: Is there a written stipulation to that effect?
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: There is, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay.
[PROSECUTOR]: In retrospect, I should have included the signature line ...

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