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State v. Cagle

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

July 2, 2019


          Heard in the Court of Appeals 30 January 2019.

          Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 18 July 2016 by Judge V. Bradford Long in Randolph County, No. 11CRS52510 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Amy Kunstling Irene, for the State.

          Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defender Kathryn L. VandenBerg, for defendant-appellant.

          BERGER, JUDGE

         On July 18, 2016, Randy Steven Cagle ("Defendant") was found guilty for the murder of both Tyrone Marshall ("Marshall") and Davida Stancil ("Stancil"). Defendant appeals, arguing that the trial court erred when it did not: (1) include the specific intent jury instruction in the final mandate; (2) instruct the jury with Defendant's requested instruction on deliberation; and (3) intervene ex mero motu to strike statements made by the prosecutor during closing arguments. We find no error.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On the afternoon of May 7, 2011, Defendant purchased approximately $20.00 of cocaine from Marshall. Defendant called Marshall to complain about the product, and Marshall went to see Defendant at his home. Once Marshall was inside Defendant's home, a fight ensued and Marshall was fatally beaten and stabbed. Defendant then went outside to Marshall's car. Stancil was waiting in the passenger seat with her seat belt still buckled. Defendant broke the passenger window of the vehicle with a baseball bat and fatally stabbed Stancil.

         Defendant attempted to dispose of the evidence of his crime by driving Marshall's car about three-tenths of a mile away from his home and abandoning it. Defendant also attempted to clean the crime scene with bleach, and hid two knives under the sink, burned some of Stancil's belongings, and washed his clothes.

         The following day, Marshall's abandoned car was found. His body was in the car's backseat and Stancil's body was in the front passenger seat with her seat belt still buckled. Stancil had twenty puncture wounds to her head, jaw, neck, chest and abdomen; defensive wounds on her hands and forearms; and her seatbelt had puncture damage as well. There was broken glass from the passenger window on the driver's seat, and shards of tinted glass were found at Defendant's home. Marshall had puncture wounds to the back of his head, and a very large, gaping wound on the front of his neck.

         Defendant was arrested, and on June 6, 2011, he was indicted on two counts of first degree murder. Prior to his arrest, a detective conducted a pat down search and noticed one of Defendant's fingers "had a small cut," but otherwise he had no wounds or bruising.

         The State held a Rule 24 hearing on June 28 and announced that it would seek the death penalty. Prior to trial, Defendant filed notice of his intent to introduce evidence of self-defense, mental infirmity, diminished capacity, involuntary intoxication, and/or voluntary intoxication. Defendant also requested before trial that the jury be instructed with additional language on premeditation and deliberation and on specific intent. Defendant's requests were denied.

         At trial, Defendant's mental state at the time of the murders was at issue. Multiple medical experts testified and provided their opinions.

         During the jury charge conference, the trial court denied Defendant's renewed request for the special instruction concerning Defendant's mental capacity, but did include Defendant's requested instruction on voluntary intoxication. The trial court also denied Defendant's renewed request for a special instruction on premeditation and deliberation, but did not prevent Defendant from arguing Defendant's requested instruction to the jury.

         After closing arguments had concluded, Defendant was convicted of two counts of first degree murder. Following the guilt/innocence phase, a capital sentencing hearing was held, and the jury returned recommendations of life imprisonment for both counts. The trial court imposed two consecutive sentences of life without parole.

         Defendant timely appeals, arguing that the trial court erred when it: (1) did not give the requested instruction on specific intent in the final mandate; (2) did not give the requested instruction on premeditation and deliberation; and (3) did not intervene ex mero motu during the prosecutor's closing argument. We find no error.

         I. Jury Instructions

         Defendant first contends that the trial court erred when it did not include the specific intent instruction in its final mandate to the jury, and when it did not give his requested instruction on premeditation and deliberation. We disagree.

         "Whether the trial court instructs using the exact language requested by counsel is a matter within its discretion and will not be overturned absent a showing of abuse of discretion." State v. Lewis, 346 N.C. 141, 145, 484 S.E.2d 379, 381 (1997) (citations, quotation marks, and brackets omitted). "[W]hen a request is made for a specific instruction that is supported by the evidence and is a correct statement of the law, the court, although not required to give the requested instruction verbatim, must charge the jury in substantial conformity therewith." State v. Daughtry, 340 N.C. 488, 516, 459 S.E.2d 747, 761 (1995) (citation and quotation marks omitted). However,

[a] party may not make any portion of the jury charge or omission therefrom the basis of an issue presented on appeal unless the party objects thereto before the jury retires to consider its verdict, stating distinctly that to which objection is made and the grounds of the objection; provided that opportunity was given to the party to make the objection out of the hearing of the jury, and, on request of any party, out of the presence of the jury.

N.C. R. App. P. 10(a)(2).

         If an instructional error is not preserved below, it nevertheless may be reviewed for plain error "when the judicial action questioned is specifically and distinctly contended to amount to plain error." N.C. R. App. P. 10(a)(4).

For error to constitute plain error, a defendant must demonstrate that a fundamental error occurred at trial. To show that an error was fundamental, a defendant must establish prejudice-that, after examination of the entire record, the error "had a probable impact on the jury's finding that the defendant was guilty." Moreover, because plain error is to be "applied cautiously and only in the exceptional case," the error will often be one that "seriously affect[s] the fairness, integrity or public reputation of judicial proceedings."

State v. Lawrence, 365 N.C. 506, 518, 723 S.E.2d 326, 334 (2012) (quoting State v. Odom, 307 N.C. 655, 661, 300 S.E.2d 375, 378-79 (1983) (citations and ...

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