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State v. Salter

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

April 2, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
KEITH ALLEN SALTER

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 28 February 2019.

          Appeal by Defendant from Judgment and Order entered 9 August 2017 by Judge Angela B. Puckett in Forsyth County No. 16 CRS 051241 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Carolyn McLain, for the State.

          Vitrano Law Offices, PLLC, by Sean P. Vitrano, for defendant-appellant.

          HAMPSON, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Keith Allen Salter (Defendant) appeals from (1) his conviction for Misdemeanor Stalking and (2) an Order finding him in criminal contempt. The evidence presented at trial tends to show the following:

         On 1 March 2016, Defendant was charged with one count of Misdemeanor Stalking. On 1 April 2016, Forsyth County District Court found Defendant guilty of this offense and entered a suspended sentence. On 5 April 2016, Defendant gave Notice of Appeal to Forsyth County Superior Court, requesting a jury trial.

         Defendant was tried de novo on the Misdemeanor Stalking charge during the 7 August 2017 Criminal Session of Forsyth County Superior Court. Defendant represented himself pro se and did not testify. Throughout the trial, the trial court warned Defendant that he would be held to the same standards as an attorney, given he represented himself pro se. On 8 August 2017, the trial court reviewed the closing argument procedures for the next day with Defendant and the State, and the following exchange occurred:

THE COURT: Okay. All right. Let me talk about the closing arguments. . . .
This will be very important, Mr. Salter, directed mainly to you because you are also the defendant who will be making the closing argument.
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: You may not -- you chose not to testify. You may not testify, then, through your closing argument. That means you cannot tell the jury, "Here's what I say happened." You can make an argument as to what the evidence showed happened, but you may not testify as you're making that closing argument; does that make sense?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: So when you are -- I will tell the jury very clearly that you may argue, you may characterize the evidence and attempt to persuade them to a particular verdict, but it would be improper for either side to become abusive, to inject personal experience, to express a personal belief as to the guilt or innocence of the defendant.
Mr. Salter, that makes it tricky for you because you're now not acting as the defendant, you're making a closing argument as a lawyer. So you may argue what the evidence indicates, but again, you may not testify as to what -- to anything outside of what has actually been heard on this witness stand; does that make sense?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: Do you understand what I'm saying?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes.
THE COURT: I'm telling you this so that you may prepare your arguments tomorrow. I do not want you to get up here and then me send the jury out and tell you "I'm not going to let you argue that," and you have no idea what you're going to say then. So I'm trying to give you a chance to prepare tonight so that you're able to make an argument tomorrow.
You may, however, give your analysis of the evidence and argue any position or conclusion with respect to any matter at issue.
All right. Do you have any questions, Mr. Salter, about what would be allowed in a closing argument or not allowed.
THE DEFENDANT: No, ma'am. Evidence is allowed, correct?
THE COURT: Anything that has been put into evidence you may refer to, or anything that has been testified to from the witness stand ...

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