172 S.E.2d 37 (N.C. 1970), 27, State v. McRae

Docket Nº:27.
Citation:172 S.E.2d 37, 276 N.C. 308
Party Name:STATE of North Carolina v. Billie Clem McRAE.
Case Date:February 11, 1970
Court:Supreme Court of North Carolina

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172 S.E.2d 37 (N.C. 1970)

276 N.C. 308

STATE of North Carolina


Billie Clem McRAE.

No. 27.

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

February 11, 1970

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Atty. Gen. Robert Morgan and Dale Shepherd, Staff Atty., for the State.

Benny S. Sharpe, Rockingham, for defendant.

BRANCH, Justice.

Defendant contends that the trial judge erred by admitting into evidence inculpatory statements alleged to have been made by him to police officers while in police custody.

When defendant interposed his objection to evidence concerning custodial statements made by him to police officers, the trial judge, in accordance with procedure approved by this Court and the United States Supreme Court, excused the jury and in its absence conducted a voir dire hearing to determine the voluntariness of the alleged statements. Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S.Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed.2d 908; State v. Gray, 268 N.C. 69, 150 S.E.2d 1; State v. Catrett, N.C., 171 S.E.2d 398 (No. 52, Fall Term, 1969, filed January 6, 1970). This procedure is vital because of the unquestioned rule in North Carolina that an extra-judicial confession of guilt by a defendant is admissible against him only when it is made voluntarily and understandingly. [276 N.C. 311] State v. Vickers, 274 N.C. 311, 163 S.E.2d 481; State v. Gray, supra; State v. Roberts, 12 N.C. 259.

On voir dire, Everette L. Norton, an agent of the State Bureau of Investigation, and defendant Billie Clem McRae testified. Agent Norton, in substance, testified that he talked with defendant while he was in custody on a charge of first degree murder; that at the times he talked with defendant he appeared to be in a normal, rational condition; that defendant was in no way coerced or offered any reward to make

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a statement; he was warned verbally and in writing of his 'constitutional rights,' and, prior to making the statement, he stated orally and in writing that he understood his rights. The written document signed by defendant consisted of two parts, entitled 'Your Rights' and 'Waiver of Rights,' respectively. Under the section entitled 'Your Rights' appears the following:

'Before we ask you any questions you must understand your rights. You have the right to remain silent, anything you say can be used against you in court. You have the right to talk to a lawyer for advice before we ask you any questions and to have him with you during questioning. If you cannot afford a lawyer one will be appointed for you before any questioning if you wish. If you decide to answer questions now, without a lawyer present, you will still have the right to stop answering at any time. You also will have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to a lawyer.'

The section entitled 'Waiver of Rights' states:

'I have read this statement of my rights and I understand what my rights are. I am willing to make a statement and answer questions. I do not want a lawyer at this time. I understand and know what I am doing. No promises or theats have been made to me and no pressure or coercion of any kind has been used against me.'

According to Agent Norton, defendant signed said waiver before any questioning took place and it was witnessed by the Deputy Clerk of the Superior Court.

On cross-examination, Agent Norton indicated that he had not discussed with defendant the charges against him before the incriminating statement was made, but that Chief Deputy Earl Dunn (of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office) had explained the charges to defendant sometime prior to defendant's signing the waiver and making the statement in...

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