in the Court of Appeals 14 November 2019.
by defendant from judgments entered 2 November 2018 by Judge
L. Todd Burke in Guilford County Nos. 16 CRS 24127, 24130,
70665 Superior Court.
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Anne J. Brown, for the State.
Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate
Defender Katy Dickinson-Schultz, for defendant.
Thomas Hairston ("defendant") appeals from
judgments entered upon his convictions for voluntary
manslaughter and possession of a controlled substance. For
the following reasons, we find no error.
April 2016, defendant was indicted on one count each of
first-degree murder, possession of methamphetamine, and
attaining habitual felon status. Defendant's charge for
possession of methamphetamine was superseded by an indictment
for possession of 4-chloromethcathinone on 25 June 2018.
Defendant's case came on for trial in Guilford County
Superior Court before the Honorable L. Todd Burke on 29
trial, Tashera Thaxton ("Ms. Thaxton"), Latoya
Settle ("Ms. Settle"), and defendant's nephews
Jerard and Charles McCollum ("Jerard" and
"Charles") testified as follows. On the night of 13
March 2016, defendant and his nephews had driven from
Reidsville to celebrate a friend's birthday at a
Greensboro bar called Lucky 7's. They exited the bar when
it closed at 2 a.m. and met Ms. Thaxton, Ms. Settle, and
defendant's cousin Sharonda Irving ("Ms.
Irving"), all of whom were friends from Reidsville. In
the parking lot, an individual from another group of around
five men approached Ms. Settle and asked if she would perform
sexual acts for money. Defendant, his nephews, and the women
rebuked the man's advances.
three groups then exited the parking lot in their respective
automobiles, with Jerard driving himself, Charles, and
defendant, and Ms. Irving driving the women in her silver
minivan. At a red light, the other group of men pulled up
alongside Jerard's vehicle, smashed a bottle against it,
and proceeded to engage in a high-speed pursuit of defendant
and his nephews. Ms. Irving followed the vehicles. Jerard
feared for their lives and worried that the men would shoot
at his car. Detective Stanley Marrow and Officer Camara
Gosmon of the Greensboro Police Department were working an
off-duty security detail in the parking lot of a Greensboro
nightclub called Shooters on the night of 13 March 2016. Upon
seeing a police car, Jerard pulled into a parking lot in
hopes that the presence of law enforcement would de-escalate
the situation. Ms. Irving's vehicle arrived shortly
thereafter. Defendant and his nephews quickly exited the
vehicle and were immediately met with an attack from the
other group of men. In the parking lot, a large fight
occurred in which Markos Leonard Jones ("Mr.
Jones") was killed.
from Detective Marrow, Officer Gosmon, and other responding
officers tended to show that Detective Marrow and Officer
Gosmon were engaged in conversation in the otherwise empty
parking lot when, at approximately 2:30 a.m., they became
aware of a brawl of fifteen to twenty people breaking out.
This brawl consisted of up to four distinct fights between
groups of several individuals. Neither officer observed a
weapon being used by any of the combatants. The officers
responded to the affray and, in the course of breaking up the
first two fights, made separate contact with both defendant
and Mr. Jones. Mr. Jones told Officer Gosmon that he was
trying to break up a fight. Defendant told Detective Marrow
that he was trying to get those he knew to disperse from the
parking lot. The officers called for backup, because the
brawl was too large for two officers to subdue.
the officers next saw defendant and Mr. Jones, the two were
near each other and Mr. Jones turned away from defendant,
bent over clutching his neck, and was bleeding profusely.
Detective Marrow then asked two nearby individuals with
"deep lacerations" on their lower arms who had a
knife, and their response led Detective Marrow to believe it
was defendant. Defendant was the closest person to Mr. Jones
at this time. Defendant began to walk toward the silver
minivan belonging to Ms. Irving and, ignoring Detective
Marrow's repeated orders to halt, bumped aside a woman
standing by an open door of the minivan and made a
"furtive move" appearing to throw an item into the
vehicle. Detective Marrow then arrested defendant and found a
controlled substance commonly known as "bath salts"
on his person. Officer Deon Carter then found a bloody knife
in the driver's seat of the vehicle. Two investigating
officers testified that defendant had blood on his shoes and
clothing. Detective Tony Hinson testified that, during
defendant's subsequent interview at the police station,
he repeatedly stated that he suffered no injuries in the
fight and did not need to go to the hospital.
investigator Edward Cobbler ("Mr. Cobbler")
testified that he interviewed defendant about the events in
question on 31 March 2016. Defendant admitted to him that he
had obtained a knife from his nephew's car. Defendant
stated that during the fight several individuals were
stomping and hitting him on the ground and he grabbed the
knife from his pocket and "came out swinging[, ]"
cutting several of his attackers. He then threw the knife in
the silver minivan belonging to Ms. Irving.
forensic analyst from the State Crime Laboratory testified
that Mr. Jones' DNA was present on swabs collected from
the knife and from blood spots on the interior and exterior
of the silver minivan. The medical examiner who conducted the
autopsy of Mr. Jones testified that his death was caused by a
stab wound to his neck consistent with the bloody knife on
which his DNA was found.
close of the State's evidence, defendant moved to dismiss
the charge of first-degree murder and its lesser-included
offenses. The trial court denied the motion and defendant
presented his own evidence as detailed above. Defendant
renewed his prior motion to dismiss at the close of all
evidence. The court again denied his motion. The trial court
then held an off-the-record, in camera charge
conference with counsel for defendant and the State. An
agreement was reached to instruct the jury on, among other
things, possession of the "bath salt"
4-chloromethcathinone, first-degree murder, second-degree
murder, and voluntary manslaughter. The court instructed the
jury on these offenses, and the jury subsequently returned a
verdict finding defendant guilty of voluntary manslaughter
and possession of 4-chloromethcathinone.
appeal, defendant argues that: (a) the trial court erred in
denying his motion to dismiss the charge of murder and the
lesser-included offense of voluntary manslaughter; (b)
alternatively, if this issue has not been preserved for
appellate review, defendant's counsel rendered
ineffective assistance in failing to preserve the issue of
evidentiary sufficiency; and (c) the trial ...