State v. Blackstock, COA03-732.
|Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
|598 S.E.2d 412,165 NC App. 50
|STATE of North Carolina v. Billy Lee BLACKSTOCK.
|06 July 2004
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General John G. Barnwell, for the State.
Glover & Petersen, P.A., by James R. Glover, Chapel Hill, for defendant appellant.
Defendant Billy Lee Blackstock appeals from judgments of the trial court entered upon jury verdicts finding him guilty of robbery with a dangerous weapon and first-degree murder on the basis of premeditation and deliberation and felony murder. Defendant argues such judgments must be reversed, in that the trial court erred by (I) denying his motion to suppress; (II) admitting hearsay statements; (III) overruling his objections to statements made by the prosecutor during closing argument; and (IV) allowing an expert witness to state that the bullet wound suffered by the victim was the proximate cause of death. We conclude the trial court erred in admitting the hearsay statements in violation of Defendant's right to confrontation. Because the hearsay statements pertained only to Defendant's conviction of first-degree murder under a theory of premeditation and deliberation, however, we find no error in Defendant's conviction of felony murder; and, following our case law, we vacate Defendant's conviction of robbery with a dangerous weapon. State v. Millsaps, 356 N.C. 556, 560, 572 S.E.2d 767, 770 (2002).
At the trial, the State presented evidence tending to show that on the evening of 15 April 2000, Cecil Weeks was working at the convenience store he owned and operated in Reidsville, North Carolina. Weeks was alone in the store. Two African-American men wearing masks and carrying handguns entered the store at approximately 9:30 p.m. and demanded money. Weeks was shot in the upper right chest during the course of the robbery.
Weeks was treated for the gunshot wound at a hospital, where his condition improved over the next four days. On the fifth day, he developed an infection in his blood stream and died on 22 April 2000. Before his death, Weeks made several statements to law enforcement officers and his wife and daughter describing the robbery and the shooting. The trial court allowed Weeks' wife and daughter to testify to these statements at trial over Defendant's objections.
Investigating officers recovered a spent .40 caliber bullet and shell casing from the floor of the convenience store. Testing revealed that the bullet recovered from the scene of the robbery was fired from a Glock handgun belonging to Defendant and seized by officers during a 17 April 2000 investigative stop of an automobile in which Defendant was a passenger. During a subsequent search of Defendant's residence, officers discovered a pair of blood-stained jeans identified by Defendant as belonging to him. A forensic molecular geneticist performed a DNA analysis and concluded that the blood stain on the jeans matched Weeks' DNA profile. Finally, a witness for the State identified Defendant as one of two men she observed loitering behind the convenience store approximately thirty minutes before the robbery.
The officers stopped the vehicle near the campus of A & T University. The driver identified himself as Tory Gerald Tucker, but told Officer Slone he did not have his driver's license with him. Officer Slone identified Defendant as the passenger. Officer Slone requested that Tucker step out of the vehicle. Tucker informed Officer Slone they were traveling to A & T University "to talk with a football player by the name of Marvin Blackstock." Officers with A & T University informed Officer Slone that no such person was listed in the university roster. Tucker further explained that the two men had been at the strip mall earlier to use a pay phone; however, Officer Slone stated there were no pay phones in the immediate area of the shopping center. Tucker gave Officer Slone permission to search his vehicle. Officers found a plastic bag containing two ounces of marijuana and a "loaded Glock 23 .40 caliber handgun" beneath the front passenger seat. Both Tucker and Defendant denied ownership of the weapon. The officers also found two black toboggans and "a female-styled hair wig" in the vehicle.
Defendant presented the testimony of Doris Hunter, the registrar at A & T University, who verified that a student named Marvin Blackstock was enrolled and attended the university during April of 2000. Hunter further testified that Blackstock was a football player for the university.
The trial court denied Defendant's motion to suppress, and the case came to trial on 7 January 2002. Upon conclusion of the evidence, the jury found Defendant guilty of armed robbery and first-degree murder under the felony murder rule and on the basis of premeditation and deliberation. Upon the jury's recommendation that Defendant be spared the death penalty, the trial court sentenced Defendant to life imprisonment without parole for the first-degree murder conviction and a term of sixty-four to eighty-six months' imprisonment for the armed robbery conviction. Defendant appealed.
Defendant presents four assignments of error on appeal, arguing the trial court erred by (I) denying his motion to suppress evidence seized by law enforcement officers during the 17 April 2000 investigative stop; (II) admitting statements made by Weeks to his wife and daughter; (III) overruling his objections to statements made by the prosecutor during closing argument; and (IV) allowing an expert witness to state that the bullet wound suffered by Weeks was the proximate cause of death. For the reasons stated herein, we conclude the trial court erred in admitting the hearsay statements made by Weeks to his wife and daughter.
By his first assignment of error, Defendant contends the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence seized during the 17 April 2000 stop of the automobile in which Defendant was a passenger. Defendant contends that some of the findings by the trial court are not supported by the evidence, and that, in turn, the trial court's conclusion that the investigative detention was lawful is erroneous.
We review a trial court's ruling on a motion to suppress to determine whether the findings of fact are supported by competent evidence, and whether the findings support the conclusions of law. State v. Braxton, 344 N.C. 702, 709, 477 S.E.2d 172, 176 (1996) (). The trial court's findings of fact are conclusive on appeal if supported by competent evidence, even if the evidence is conflicting. Id...
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