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State v. Parks

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

February 19, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
TOUSSANT LOVERTURE PARKS, Defendant.

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 28 November 2018.

          Appeal by Defendant from judgment entered 27 October 2017 by Judge Reuben F. Young in Wake County No. 17 CRS 205978 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Donna B. Wojcik, for the State.

          Joseph P. Lattimore, for defendant-appellant.

          MURPHY, JUDGE.

         A trial court must instruct a jury on self-defense where, taking the evidence in the light most favorable to the defendant as true, there is competent evidence to support such an instruction. Failure to do so is error, even if the State presents conflicting evidence. Additionally, a trial court does not err in instructing the jury on flight evidence where there is some evidence to reasonably support the theory that the defendant fled after commission of the crime charged. Here, there was evidence to support both a self-defense instruction and a flight instruction. The trial court committed prejudicial error by failing to instruct the jury on self-defense, thus entitling Defendant to a new trial.

         BACKGROUND

         On 2 April 2017, Aubrey Chapman ("Chapman") attended the birthday party of his cousin, Timothy Sims ("Sims"), at Red Bowl Asian Bistro in Raleigh. Also in attendance at the party was Chapman's childhood friend, Alan McGill ("McGill"). While McGill was ordering a drink from the restaurant's bar and talking to a female attendee, Defendant approached him. Defendant asked McGill, "How do you know her? Where do you know her from?" McGill responded that he did not want any trouble. At this time, Defendant hit McGill in the face with a closed fist. Chapman observed this sudden confrontation and struck Defendant in the face. Security escorted Defendant out of the restaurant. Chapman followed shortly thereafter, stating, "This guy is ruining this party for everybody." A group of people "stampeded out" of the restaurant behind Chapman.

         The sequence of events after Defendant, Chapman, and the group of attendees exited the restaurant conflicts. Chapman stated that when he exited the restaurant, Defendant immediately "came charging up" to him with an orange box cutter in his hand. As Defendant approached him with the box cutter, Chapman stated that he started "swinging" at Defendant. At this time, Chapman recalled the crowd grew and intervened. Chapman then stated that Defendant came charging at him again with the box cutter and cut him below his left kidney as Chapman tripped over a curb. Sims also recalled a male rushing towards Chapman outside of the restaurant. One of the security guards working the event also observed Defendant charge towards Chapman twice and cut Chapman on his back. Another security guard stated that [Chapman's] "friends had realized that [Defendant] had a box cutter, and [tried] to basically fight him and beat him up." Amidst the altercation between Defendant and the group, Reggie Penny ("Penny"), a security guard, was also cut "on his front half and his back."

         Penny, the injured security guard, and Sherrel Outlaw ("Outlaw"), an attendee, however, recalled a different sequence of events outside of the restaurant. Penny stated that he observed Defendant trying to reenter the restaurant after being escorted out. As he was speaking with Defendant, Penny recalled "two people rushing up to [Defendant]" on both sides to start an altercation with Defendant. Amidst the altercation, Penny observed the group "kicking and stomping." Outlaw stated that she went outside after hearing "commotion" inside the restaurant. She then saw Defendant with "his hands up" when "a group of guys [started] walking towards him . . . ." At this time, Defendant "took a couple of steps back and then there was a guy on the left side of him that hit him in the face, and then there was a guy like probably two steps to the right of [Defendant], and once he got hit, the guy on the right side swung." Outlaw stated, "that is when the group of guys started jumping on him and I seen [sic] them go down." Outlaw stated that she did not see Defendant with a weapon.

         Defendant was indicted on two counts of Assault with a Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Injury. At trial, Defendant requested a jury instruction on self-defense using N.C. P.I. - Crim. 308.45. The trial court denied this request, stating, "I don't believe that there is evidence that has been presented that supports a self defense claim." The trial court also overruled Defendant's objection to instructing the jury on flight. A jury convicted Defendant for Assault with a Deadly Weapon for the injuries sustained by Penny and Assault with a Deadly Weapon Inflicting Serious Injury for those sustained by Chapman. Defendant was sentenced to an active term of 29 to 47 months.

         ANALYSIS

         A. Standard of Review

         We review a challenge to the trial court's decision regarding jury instructions de novo. State v. Osorio,196 N.C.App. 458, 466, 675 S.E.2d 144, 149 (2009). "Under a de novo review, the court considers the matter anew and freely substitutes its own judgment for that of the lower tribunal." State v. Williams, 362 N.C. 628, 632-33, 669 S.E.2d 290, 294 (2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Defendant preserved his arguments regarding jury instructions for appeal. Accordingly, he must demonstrate that "there is a reasonable possibility that, had the error in question ...


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