in the Supreme Court on 10 April 2019.
discretionary review pursuant to N.C. G.S. § 7A-31 of a
unanimous decision of the Court of Appeals, 808 S.E.2d 450 (
N.C. Ct. App. 2017), granting defendant a new trial in part
and finding no error in part upon appeal from judgments
entered on 18 May 2016 by Judge Jeffrey B. Foster in Superior
Court, Pitt County.
H. Stein, Attorney General, by Neil Dalton, Special Deputy
Attorney General, for the State-appellant.
Marilyn G. Ozer for defendant-appellee.
case is before us pursuant to the State's petition in the
alternative for discretionary review of the Court of Appeals'
opinion which granted defendant a new trial on his abduction
of a child and statutory rape charges after determining that
he was prejudiced by the trial court's decision to allow
his affidavit of indigency to be admitted to prove his age-an
element of the charges-in violation of his constitutional
right against self-incrimination. State v. Diaz, 808
S.E.2d 450, 457 ( N.C. Ct. App. 2017). Pursuant to the
State's petition in the alternative for discretionary
review, we now address whether:
. . . the Court of Appeals err[ed] when it . . . held there
was a self-incrimination clause violation where a form filled
out by the defendant was admitted into evidence to show the
defendant's age which was an element of his crimes, when
the defendant's age was testified to without objection by
uncontroverted testimony by the victim who lived in the same
conclude that admission of the affidavit was in error;
however, because the trial court's error in allowing the
affidavit of indigency to be admitted was harmless beyond a
reasonable doubt, we affirm the Court of Appeals' opinion
in part and reverse it in part.
Factual and Procedural Background
trial, the State offered the only evidence. The factual
background of this case was established mainly through the
testimony of the juvenile victim, Julie.Julie's
testimony tended to show the following.
and Julie met and began dating in the "late fall, early
winter" of 2014. At the time they met, Julie was a
freshman in high school and defendant was a senior at the
same high school. Julie was fourteen years old, and she would
not turn fifteen until 21 July 2015. Defendant told Julie
that he was eighteen, but Julie later found out that he was
nineteen. Julie testified that defendant's birthdate was
26 November 1995. On cross-examination, Julie testified that
she never saw defendant's driver's license, birth
certificate, or passport.
they met, Julie and defendant began "talking."
However, at the end of January 2015, Julie and defendant
began skipping school to have sex at defendant's house.
The two continued having sex through April of 2015. Julie
testified that she wanted to have sex with defendant all
"but the first time."
point in March or April of 2015, defendant asked Julie if he
could record them while they were having sex. Julie testified
that defendant's request was unexpected and that although
she initially did not object to it, she was later worried
that defendant might "use[ ] [i]t to manipulate
[her]." Defendant made four separate recordings and the
trial court admitted all of them into evidence.
April 2015, Julie and defendant left North Carolina. Julie
testified that although it was defendant's idea to leave
North Carolina, she agreed to leave with him because: (1) she
thought she was in love with him; (2) he told her that she
would never see him again if she did not come with him; and
(3) she was scared that he was going to use the recordings
that he took of them having sex to manipulate her to go with
him. Julie ultimately testified on cross-examination that
although, in her view, defendant did not force her to leave
with him, she "felt forced."
leaving North Carolina, defendant and Julie first went to
defendant's uncle's house in New Mexico.
Defendant's uncle, however, "didn't help
[them]." He told them that they needed to "go back
and do things right." He also told Julie that she needed
to call her mother. Julie did so, but she did not tell her
mother where her and defendant were.
leaving defendant's uncle's house, Julie and
defendant went to Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. Julie testified
that they "tried to get settled" there. They got an
apartment together, and both she and defendant found jobs.
Julie testified that at that point, the two were
"[b]asically starting a new life" and "helping
each other out." Julie testified that although she was
"in favor of being out" in Oklahoma, she "kind
of wanted to go back." Julie and defendant were away
from North Carolina for about a month in total before U.S.
Marshals found them in Oklahoma. Once they were found, U.S.
Marshals arranged for Julie to return home to Greenville, __
N.C. __, on a flight from Oklahoma to Charlotte. Julie had no
interaction with defendant after she returned home.
June 2015, Julie made a written statement to one of the U.S.
Marshals who picked her up at the airport in Charlotte. Julie
testified at trial that she still loved defendant and felt
like she had to protect him at the time that she wrote the
statement. The statement tended to: (1) contradict
Julie's trial testimony that it was defendant who came up
with the idea to record them having sex back in March or
April; and (2) demonstrate that defendant was willing to take
Julie back home if she wanted to go back.
September 2015, defendant was indicted for: (1) one count of
abduction of a child under N.C. G.S. § 14-41; (2) three
counts of statutory rape under then N.C. G.S. §
14-27.7A(b); and (3) four counts of first-degree sexual
exploitation of a minor under N.C. G.S. § 14-190.16.
October 2015, defendant completed and signed an affidavit of
indigency so that a court-appointed attorney could be
assigned to his case. Within the sworn affidavit, defendant
listed his date of birth as 20 November 1995.
trial began on 16 May 2016. At trial, Julie testified to the
facts stated herein. At the end of Julie's testimony, the
State offered as evidence a copy of defendant's affidavit
of indigency. The State asserted that the affidavit was a
self-authenticating document under Rule 902 of the North
Carolina Rules of Evidence. Defendant objected to the
admission of the affidavit on the grounds of "relevance,
due process, hearsay, confrontation." The trial court
ruled that the affidavit was admissible because under
"Rule 902 Rules of Evidence, it is a self-authenticating
document." The trial court then allowed the State to
publish the ...