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State v. Baker

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

July 3, 2018

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
WILLIAM OSCAR BAKER, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 7 June 2018.

          Appeal by defendant from order entered 6 June 2017 by Judge Robert F. Floyd, Jr. in Robeson County No. 16CRS2457 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Kathryn H. Shields, for the State.

          Yoder Law PLLC, by Jason Christopher Yoder, for defendant-appellant.

          BERGER, JUDGE.

         On June 6, 2017, William Oscar Baker ("Defendant") was held in criminal contempt and sentenced to thirty days in jail in Robeson County Superior Court. Defendant appeals, arguing the trial court erred in holding him in criminal contempt and entering a civil judgment against him for reimbursement of court appointed attorney fees. We affirm the part of the trial court's order for criminal contempt, but vacate the portion assessing attorney's fees and remand for a new hearing on that issue.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On September 28, 2016, the matter of State v. McCormick ("the trial") was heard in Robeson County Superior Court in. Defendant, McCormick's cousin, was sitting in the audience. During the trial, an exchange occurred between a witness and Defendant that interrupted the State's direct examination of that witness. As a result of this exchange, the trial court held a separate hearing outside the presence of the jury to determine the cause of the interruption. The witness testified that Defendant was shaking his head and making a gun gesture at him while he was on the witness stand. After this hearing, the trial court ordered Defendant to show cause for the interruption.

         On June 6, 2017, the trial court held a hearing on the order to show cause. The State introduced two transcripts into evidence. The first transcript was a one-page excerpt taken from the testimony of the witness during the trial. The second transcript reflected the additional interview with the witness taken after testimony was over in the trial. Defendant objected to the transcripts as hearsay evidence, and the trial court stated that it would receive the transcripts into evidence for the limited purpose of "setting forth the circumstances in which the inquiry and the allegations of the contemptuous act [were] made."

         The State subsequently called three witnesses to testify to the events that occurred in the courtroom on September 28, 2016. The evidence presented tended to show that the witness became agitated on the stand and spoke to Defendant who was sitting in the courtroom behind the defense table. The witness told Defendant to stop shaking his head. Defendant also made a gun gesture with his hand and mouthed incomprehensible words towards the witness. The Assistant District Attorney was present during the trial, and testified to the following at the show cause hearing:

[Defendant] came in. I saw him move back to the second row, and then I could hear him talk-he was mumbling something. I couldn't make out what. And then I noticed that the witness . . . was looking off in that direction, and it attracted my attention to [Defendant]. And I saw him nodding his head. It looked like he was mouthing something to the witness. Then I saw him make a gun with his hand and sort of put it up like this while he was gesturing and nodding his head towards [the witness].
. . . .
I saw him nodding his head and gesturing with his hands. And at one point-so [he] made what would look like a gun with his hand while he was-it looked like he was addressing [the witness] who was testifying.

         Defendant also testified at the hearing, acknowledging that he sat in the second row during the trial on September 28, 2016. Defendant testified that he did not make any gesture, but stated that he was twisting his dreadlocks and talking to McCormick's father during the ...


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