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State v. Lyons

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

December 3, 2019

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
DATREL K'CHAUN LYONS, Defendant

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 29 October 2019.

          Appeal by Defendant from judgments entered 24 September 2018 by Judge Imelda Pate in Johnston County No. 16 CRS 56785 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Neil Dalton, for the State.

          James R. Parish for Defendant-Appellant.

          INMAN, JUDGE.

         Datrel K'Chaun Lyons ("Defendant") appeals from judgments entered following a jury's verdict finding him guilty of attempted first degree murder and conspiracy to commit attempted first degree murder. Defendant argues that: (1) the conspiracy charge as set forth in the indictment is invalid, as it alleges a non-existent crime; (2) the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss both charges for insufficiency of the evidence; and (3) the trial court erred in finding duplicative aggravating circumstances at sentencing. After careful review, we hold that the indictment for conspiracy is valid and the trial court did not commit error in denying Defendant's motion to dismiss. We dismiss the portion of Defendant's appeal pertaining to his sentencing for lack of jurisdiction.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         The evidence presented at trial tended to show the following:

         On 24 October 2016, at approximately 9:30 p.m., two men robbed a Hardee's restaurant in Princeton, North Carolina as the employees were cleaning up and closing for the night. Ms. Ricks, the manager, was in her office doing bookkeeping for the day when she heard the alarm go off; suddenly, an unknown man appeared beside her, pointed a gun at her, and demanded she give him money. Ms. Ricks complied with his demand.

         Ms. Ricks also observed a second man demanding that one of the cashiers open a cash drawer. Ms. Ricks explained to the robbers that the cashier could not open the cash drawer, but that she could. She then walked over and opened the drawer for them. Inside the drawer were rolls of coins and a burgundy BB&T bank cash bag containing approximately $500. One man took the BB&T bag and several rolls of coins and threw them into a "bookbag." The men then left the Hardee's and drove away in a Chevrolet Sonic vehicle. Ms. Ricks locked the doors and called the police.

         At the time of the robbery, Johnston County Sheriff's Deputy Adriane Stone was driving a patrol car throughout the county. Sometime after the armed robbery was reported, Deputy Stone was driving on Cleveland Road when a car careened toward her at 78 to 79 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone. Deputy Stone slowed to a stop and turned her emergency lights on, hopeful that the other car would slow down or stop. When the speeding car did not stop, Deputy Stone turned her vehicle around to give chase. Deputy Stone called dispatch and provided the license plate number of the vehicle, later identified as a Chevrolet Sonic, and reported she was making a traffic stop. She had no idea at that time that the vehicle was connected with the armed robbery at the Hardee's.

         At one point during the pursuit, the Sonic slowed down suddenly and pulled over onto the shoulder of the road. Deputy Stone rolled to a stop behind the Sonic and exited her vehicle. After she did so, the Sonic sped away. Deputy Stone resumed the chase and called on the radio for back up. As the pursuit continued, the Sonic made a sudden stop a second time. Deputy Stone again stopped close behind.

         After she had stopped, Deputy Stone observed a man, later identified as Defendant, lean his torso out of the back window of the Sonic and point a gun directly at her face. Deputy Stone immediately ducked behind her dashboard, heard a gunshot, and shifted her car into reverse. The driver of the Sonic then fled the scene. Deputy Stone, meanwhile, called dispatch to report shots fired, gathered her resolve, and resumed the chase.

         Deputy Stone caught up to the fleeing Sonic and watched as it came to a stop at the end of a cul-de-sac. She parked her patrol car behind the Sonic, drawing her service pistol as she stepped out of the vehicle. The driver of the Sonic then turned around and drove the vehicle towards her. Deputy Stone fired 3-5 shots, striking the car. After the Sonic passed, Deputy Stone got back into her vehicle and heard another officer, Deputy Michael Savage, announce over the radio that the Sonic had crashed.

         Deputy Savage arrived on the scene shortly after Deputy Stone had discharged her weapon, and observed that the Sonic had crashed into a mailbox off the side of the road. He saw three men jump out of the car and run into nearby woods. He called for help and Deputy Stone arrived a short time later. The two officers discussed what to do next and began to search inside the Sonic for firearms. They discovered a pellet gun in the backseat and a black Berretta pistol on the floorboard of the front passenger seat.

         Clayton Police K-9 Officer Justin Vause arrived at the crash site. As he was approaching the site, he observed a man running into the woods. Officer Vause exited his vehicle and loudly warned the fleeing man that he was preparing to release his dog, Major, to find and subdue him. That man, later identified as Defendant, replied, "I'm over here, sir[, ]" and surrendered, at which time Officer Vause arrested him. Officer Vause and Major then began to track a scent from the crashed Sonic, which eventually led them back to the woods where Defendant was arrested. Major searched the area and discovered a brown BB&T bank bag filled with money.

         Believing the remaining suspects were in the nearby wooded area, law enforcement officers established a perimeter and deployed another tracking canine and a thermal imaging camera. They soon located another suspect, later identified as Gerald Holmes. Mr. Holmes did not initially cooperate with the police, but was quickly subdued by Major. Law enforcement later identified Antonio Pratt as the third suspect and arrested him several weeks after the chase.

         Defendant was indicted on 7 November 2016 on charges of attempted first degree murder and conspiracy to commit attempted first degree murder.

         At trial, Deputy Stone, Deputy Savage, Officer Vause, and Mr. Pratt testified to the events of the evening in detail. Describing the police chase, Mr. Pratt testified that when he first saw Deputy Stone's car, he began to panic because he was speeding and did not have a driver's license. He further testified that, at one point during the chase, Mr. Holmes told him to pull over; when he did, he heard Mr. Holmes yell to Defendant, "Shoot, bro. Shoot." Mr. Pratt testified that he then heard a loud boom, which he identified as a gunshot.

         At the close of the State's evidence, Defendant moved to dismiss all claims for insufficiency of the evidence. That motion was denied. Defendant offered no evidence, and the jury found Defendant guilty on both charges. After the verdict was announced, Defendant admitted to the existence of three aggravating factors as part of a plea bargain. The trial court sentenced Defendant to 157 to 201 months imprisonment for attempted first degree murder and a consecutive sentence of 73 to 100 months imprisonment for conspiracy to commit attempted first degree murder. Both ...


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