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State v. Cox

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

March 5, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA,
v.
JAMES A. COX

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 28 January 2019.

          Appeal by Defendant from Judgments entered 16 January 2018 by Judge William W. Bland in Onslow County, Nos. 15 CRS 54673, 15 CRS 54665 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General James D. Concepción, for the State.

          The Law Office of Bruce T. Cunningham, Jr., by Bruce T. Cunningham, Jr., for defendant-appellant.

          HAMPSON, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         James A. Cox (Defendant) appeals from his convictions for Conspiracy to Commit Armed Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon and Felonious Breaking or Entering.[1] The evidence presented at trial tends to show the following:

         Sometime prior to the night of 8 August 2015, Defendant gave Richard Linn (Linn) $20.00 to purchase Percocet tablets or other drugs. Linn testified he regularly used Angela Leisure (Leisure) as a go-between to purchase drugs. On this occasion, Linn added his own money to Defendant's and gave Leisure approximately $50.00 or $60.00. Leisure admitted she never purchased the drugs and never returned the money to Linn.

         Linn further testified on the evening of 8 August 2015, Defendant and his girlfriend, Ashley Jackson (Jackson), arrived at Linn's house and demanded he come outside. Defendant was standing outside with a gun in his hand and told Linn to "get in the car." Linn stated Defendant and Jackson wanted to go to Leisure's house "to talk to her about their money." After getting in the car, Linn directed Defendant to Leisure's house.

         Leisure's boyfriend, Daniel McMinn (McMinn), testified he was standing outside of Leisure's home when Defendant, Jackson, and Linn arrived. Jackson asked McMinn where Leisure was. Jackson and Defendant entered the house and McMinn followed. After entering the home, Jackson attacked Leisure by pulling her hair, punching her, and forcing her to the ground. Leisure recalled Jackson saying, "give me my money" or "give me the money." McMinn testified he reached for his cell phone to call the police, but he stopped when he saw Defendant display a handgun "in a threatening way."

         After several minutes of fighting, Linn called Jackson off, saying: "I think she's had enough. Come on, let's go." Defendant, Jackson, and Linn left the house. Linn testified once outside Defendant turned and kicked a hole in the door. Defendant also fired a shot into Leisure's home, which struck a mirrored door inside the home. Defendant, Jackson, and Linn left Leisure's home without obtaining any money or personal property.

         Based on these events, Defendant was arrested and charged with First-Degree Burglary, Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon, and Discharging a Weapon into an Occupied Property.[2] Following the State's presentation of evidence, Defendant moved to dismiss all charges. This Motion was denied.

         Subsequently, Defendant presented evidence, including his own testimony. Defendant's evidence tended to show he went to Linn's house on 8 August 2015 to give Linn $20.00 to purchase pain relievers for Jackson. Later in the evening, Linn requested Defendant pick him up because Leisure had taken the money and would not answer his phone calls. Linn said he would talk to Leisure in person and get Defendant's money back. Defendant claimed no one, including himself, had a weapon on 8 August 2015 and that Jackson kicked in the door, not Defendant. At the close of all the evidence, Defendant renewed his Motion to Dismiss all charges, which the trial court denied.

         After instructing the jury, the trial court provided the jury with written copies of its jury instructions. After deliberating for approximately two hours, the jury returned a note with two questions related to the Conspiracy charge: The first question stated, "Can we get clarification of 'While the defendant knows that the defendant is not entitled to take the property, '" which was part of the definition in the jury instructions on Conspiracy to Commit Robbery with a Dangerous Weapon. The jury's second question asked, "Is it still Robbery to take back one owns [sic] property?" After conferring with counsel, and without any objection by Defendant's trial counsel, ...


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