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State v. Fields

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

April 16, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
MELVIN LAMAR FIELDS

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 14 February 2019.

          Appeal by Defendant from Judgments entered 12 January 2018 by Judge Paul C. Ridgeway in Durham County Superior Court Nos. 15 CRS 59893, 17 CRS 444.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Lisa Bradley, for the State.

          Richard Croutharmel for defendant-appellant.

          HAMPSON, JUDGE.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Melvin Lamar Fields (Defendant) appeals from Judgments adjudicating him guilty of (1) Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury and (2) Habitual Misdemeanor Assault. The Record before us demonstrates the following:

         On 15 August 2016, a Grand Jury indicted Defendant for Malicious Maiming of Privy Member and Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury. On 6 February 2017, the Grand Jury entered a superseding indictment for Attempted Malicious Castration or Maiming of a Privy Member and Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury. The Grand Jury additionally indicted Defendant for Assault, and for Habitual Misdemeanor Assault, a separate substantive offense. These indictments alleged, on 2 November 2015, Defendant attacked and tore the scrotum of A.R., [1] a transgender woman. In advance of trial, Defendant stipulated to two prior misdemeanor assaults as elements of Habitual Misdemeanor Assault.

         At the close of the State's evidence, Defendant moved to dismiss the charges against him on the grounds of insufficiency of the evidence. Specifically, Defendant alleged the "evidence is insufficient as a matter of law on every element of each charge to support submission of the charge to the jury," and "there is a variance between the crime alleged in the indictment and the crime for which the State's evidence may have been sufficient for submission to the jury[.]" Defendant also argued, "as it relates to the attempted malicious maiming indictment, the [S]tate has failed to show there was . . . any specific intent . . . with malice to maim, disfigure, or render impotent" A.R., A.R. was "not permanently injured," and "the [S]tate has failed to show that there was serious bodily injury" to A.R. The trial court denied the Motion. Defendant declined to offer evidence on his own behalf and renewed his Motion to Dismiss, which the trial court again denied.

         The trial court submitted to the jury the two felony charges of Attempted Castration or Maiming and Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury. Rather than submit the charge of Habitual Misdemeanor Assault, the trial court submitted the underlying predicate misdemeanor offense of Assault Inflicting Serious Injury, pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-33(c)(1).

         The jury returned verdicts finding Defendant not guilty of Attempted Castration or Maiming, guilty of Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury, and guilty of Assault Inflicting Serious Injury. The jury further found as an aggravating factor Defendant took advantage of a position of trust or confidence to commit the offense.

         The trial court found Defendant had a prior felony record level of III. The court sentenced Defendant to a minimum of 19 months and a maximum of 32 months, in the presumptive range, for Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury; and a minimum of 9 months and a maximum of 20 months, in the presumptive range, for Habitual Misdemeanor Assault; to be served consecutively in the custody of the North Carolina Department of Adult Correction. Defendant appeals.

         Issues

         The dispositive issues raised by Defendant in this case are: (I) Whether there was sufficient evidence of a "serious bodily injury" to submit the charge of Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury to the jury; and (II) Whether the trial court erred in entering judgment on the Habitual Misdemeanor Assault conviction, predicated on the Defendant's conviction for misdemeanor Assault Inflicting Serious Injury, in light of Defendant's conviction for felony Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury arising from the same conduct.

         Analysis

         I. Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury

         In his first argument, Defendant contends the trial court erred in failing to dismiss the charge of Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury. We disagree.

         A. Standard of Review

         "This Court reviews the trial court's denial of a motion to dismiss de novo." State v. Smith, 186 N.C.App. 57, 62, 650 S.E.2d 29, 33 (2007).

         " 'Upon defendant's motion for dismissal, the question for the Court is whether there is substantial evidence (1) of each essential element of the offense charged, or of a lesser offense included therein, and (2) of defendant's being the perpetrator of such offense. If so, the motion is properly denied.'" State v. Fritsch, 351 N.C. 373, 378, 526 S.E.2d 451, 455 (quoting State v. Barnes, 334 N.C. 67, 75, 430 S.E.2d 914, 918 (1993)), cert. denied, 531 U.S. 890, 148 L.Ed.2d 150 (2000).

         B. ...


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