in the Supreme Court on 4 March 2019.
writ of certiorari pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-32(b) of a
divided decision of the Court of Appeals, __ N.C.App. __, 811
S.E.2d 215 (2018), finding no prejudicial error upon appeal
from a judgment entered on 10 June 2016 by Judge Marvin P.
Pope, Jr. in Superior Court, Swain County.
H. Stein, Attorney General, by Sherri Horner Lawrence,
Assistant Attorney General, for the State.
Adelle Jones for defendant-appellant.
issues before us in this case concern whether the Court of
Appeals erred by determining that the trial court did not
commit prejudicial error by allowing the jury, without the
consent of the parties, to review certain photographs that
had been admitted into evidence in the jury room and did not
commit plain error by instructing the jury concerning the
effect of a determination that defendant Willoughby Henerey
Mumma was the "aggressor" upon defendant's
right to act in self-defense. After carefully considering the
record in light of the applicable law, we hold that defendant
was not prejudiced by the trial court's decision to allow
the jury to review the photographs in the jury room without
his consent and that the trial court's decision to
include an "aggressor" instruction in its
discussion of the law of self-defense did not constitute
plain error. As a result, we modify and affirm the decision
of the Court of Appeals.
November 2011, defendant lived with his wife, Amy Chapman,
and her fifteen-year-old son, Christopher Robinson. At
approximately 5:30 p.m. on that date, when Mr. Robinson came
home after visiting his girlfriend following school, he
discovered that defendant and his mother were consuming
Clonopin and drinking alcohol. Between 8:00 and 8:30 p.m.,
Ms. Chapman got a ride to the store, where she purchased more
8:11 until 8:21 p.m., defendant had a text message exchange
with his friend, Dewayne Bradley, during which defendant
Defendant: Im goin 2 kil her.
Mr. Bradley: Please dont.
Defendant: Im goin 2 I cant take.
Mr. Bradley: Man just walk down the road.
Defendant: Do u have ne lime?
Mr. Bradley: Noooooo just chill.
Defendant: No Im over it I cant take no more I luv u bro.
Mr. Bradley: Please lessen to me.
Defendant: Im sorry I have 2.
Mr. Bradley: Man, Ill. come and get 2morr my word.
Defendant: Line wil get rid of the body.
Ms. Chapman purchased additional pills from an acquaintance
who came to the residence in which she, defendant, and Mr.
approximately 9:45 p.m., Mr. Robinson awoke; heard an
argument between defendant and Ms. Chapman; entered their
bedroom, in which the couple was sitting adjacent to each
other on the bed; urged them to stop arguing; and then went
back to bed himself. Defendant claimed that, later on the
same evening, Ms. Chapman, who had taken a shower while he
was still sitting on the bed, emerged from the bathroom with
a knife and attacked him with it. After gaining control of
the knife, defendant stabbed Ms. Chapman to death.
next morning, defendant sent several text messages to Mr.
Bradley in which he requested Mr. Bradley to drive Mr.
Robinson to school. After Mr. Bradley and his wife, who was
driving the couple's vehicle, arrived, Mr. Bradley
entered the house. At that time, defendant showed Mr. Bradley
the body of Ms. Chapman, which was lying on the floor of a
closet in the bedroom that the two of them had shared. Upon
seeing Ms. Chapman's body, Mr. Bradley quickly left the
residence, reentered his vehicle, and told his wife and Mr.
Robinson to lock the doors to prevent defendant from
accessing the vehicle. After his wife had driven away from
the residence, Mr. Bradley informed Mr. Robinson that his
mother was dead and called for emergency assistance.
Defendant, who had entered the woods behind the residence,
was taken into custody at approximately 5:18 p.m.