State v. Chamberlain, 051920 NCCA, COA19-565

Docket Nº:COA19-565
Opinion Judge:DIETZ, JUDGE
Attorney:Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Orlando L. Rodriguez, for the State. Marilyn G. Ozer for defendant.
Judge Panel:Judges TYSON and INMAN concur.
Case Date:May 19, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of North Carolina




No. COA19-565

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

May 19, 2020

An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.

Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 28 September 2018 by Judge William R. Pittman in Alamance County, Nos. 16 CRS 55304, 55371 Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 21 January 2020.

Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Orlando L. Rodriguez, for the State.

Marilyn G. Ozer for defendant.


Mark Anthony Chamberlain forced a woman into his car, drove her to a remote location, and sexually assaulted and raped her. At trial, a jury found Chamberlain guilty of first-degree kidnapping, first-degree forcible rape, and first-degree forcible sexual offense.

On appeal, Chamberlain argues that there was insufficient evidence that he threatened to use a dangerous or deadly weapon, an essential element of the sex offenses charges; that the trial court erred by allowing evidence that Chamberlain committed two previous, similar sexual assaults against other victims; and that the trial court erred by failing to intervene on its own initiative to address allegedly improper remarks during the State's closing argument.

We are not persuaded by these arguments. As explained below, the State presented substantial evidence that the victim reasonably believed Chamberlain threatened her with a deadly weapon; the trial court properly admitted the evidence of Chamberlain's past sexual assaults to establish his modus operandi; and the remarks during closing argument, even assuming they were objectionable, were not so grossly improper as to require the trial court to intervene sua sponte to ensure a fair trial. Accordingly, we find no error in the trial court's judgments.

Facts and Procedural History

Around 12:34 a.m. on 17 October 2016, Defendant Mark Anthony Chamberlain was driving around Alamance County when he noticed A.S.1 walking alone. After passing by A.S. four times and noticing that no other cars were on the road, Chamberlain rolled down his window, told A.S. that he had a gun, and ordered her to get into his car. Once in the car, A.S. saw that Chamberlain did not have a gun, but saw a knife at his side. She tried to press the emergency dial button on her cellphone, but Chamberlain overpowered her and took her phone away. Chamberlain told A.S. if she tried to get out of the car, he would slit her throat, but if she cooperated, he would drop her off at her house.

Chamberlain drove A.S. to a dirt road in a wooded area. The location was secluded and there were no homes or businesses nearby. Chamberlain made A.S. exit the car where he sexually assaulted and raped her. Following the assault, Chamberlain drove back to a public road, gave A.S. twenty-three dollars, and ordered her to hand over her underwear. He then gave her back her cell phone, told her to exit the car, and threatened to kill her if she told anyone about the incident.

Now alone, A.S. ran down the street and banged on the door of a nearby home. The homeowner testified that he opened the door and found a frantic A.S. yelling about how someone had raped her. He allowed A.S. into his home, tried to calm her down, and gave her a phone to call the police. A.S. gave the police a description of the assault, the make and model of the vehicle, and a partial license plate number. She also told police that, while inside the car, she saw a black knife in the perpetrator's lap that looked like "one of those hunting knife things." A.S. was distraught and shaking as she spoke to the 911 dispatcher.

Later that night, law...

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