State v. Gainey

Decision Date28 January 1972
Docket NumberNo. 120,120
Citation280 N.C. 366,185 S.E.2d 874
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of North Carolina v. Frank GAINEY.

Atty. Gen. Robert Morgan and Staff Atty. Burley B. Mitchell, Jr., Raleigh, for the State.

J. William Anderson, Fayetteville, for defendant appellant.

SHARP, Justice:

Defendant's case on appeal contains seven assignments of error, one of which he expressly abandons in his brief. His first two assignments relate to Judge Dupree's findings that, prior to defendant's waiver of counsel and preliminary hearing, he had explained to him the nature of the charges against him, the statutory punishment therefor, and his constitutional rights in connection therewith.

Defendant was bound over to the Superior Court upon a warrant charging him with common-law robbery, a crime punishable by imprisonment not exceeding ten years. G.S. § 14--2 (1969). In the Superior Court he was tried upon an indictment charging robbery with firearms for which the punishment is not less than five nor more than thirty years. G.S. § 14--87 (1969). Defendant argues that the crime for which he was tried was not the one which Judge Dupree has explained to him and, therefore, he could not have knowingly and understandingly waived either counsel or a preliminary hearing. However, defendant does not project this argument further. He points to no prejudice whatever resulting to him from the absence of counsel at the time he waived preliminary hearing, and the record neither discloses nor suggests any. Nothing prejudicial to defendant is shown to have taken place at any time. He made no statements with reference to the charge against him until he testified in the Superior Court, where he was represented by counsel. No preliminary hearing was required and none was held.

Under our law a preliminary hearing is not an essential prerequisite to a bill of indictment. Gasque v. State, 271 N.C. 323, 156 S.E.2d 740, cert. den. 390 U.S. 1030, 88 S.Ct. 1423, 20 L.Ed.2d 288 (1968), and cases therein cited. However, since G.S. § 7A--451 (effective 1 July 1969) declares a preliminary hearing to be '(a) critical stage of the action,' it follows that an indigent defendant would be entitled to the appointment of counsel if such a hearing is held. See Coleman v. Alabama, 399 U.S. 1, 90 S.Ct. 1999, 26 L.Ed.2d 387 (1970). We hold that none of defendant's constitutional rights were violated during the proceedings in the District Court; that his waiver of counsel was valid; and that he sustained no prejudice either by reason of his waiver of counsel or preliminary hearing. State v. Clark, 272 N.C. 282, 158 S.E.2d 705.

Defendant's third assignment of error is: 'To the court's overruling of defendant's objection to questions by the solicitor concerning defendant's previous arrest. (R p 41)' As we have repeatedly pointed out, such an assignment does not comply with Rule 19(3) of the Rules of Practice in the Supreme Court. 254 N.C. at 783, 798--800. See Grimes v. Home Credit Company, 271 N.C. 608, 157 S.E.2d 213; State v. Staten, 271 N.C. 600, 607--608, 157 S.E.2d 225, 231. Although the assignment of error does not itself specifically show the questions sought to be presented as required by the rule, we have reviewed the record and ascertained the question. On cross-examination, after defendant denied that he had seen Officer Acker 'earlier that day' (31 January 1969), he testified without objection that Acker had arrested him on a Thursday night--presumably on 30 January 1969. The solicitor's next question was, 'What did he arrest you for'? Defendant's objection was overruled, and he answered that he had been arrested for an assault upon a person whose name he did not know, just somebody he was 'fighting with.'

It is no longer the rule in North Carolina that, for purposes of impeachment, a witness may be asked if he has been arrested or indicted for a specified offense. In State v. Williams, 279 N.C. 663, 185 S.E.2d 174, this Court overruled State v. Maslin, 195 N.C. 537, 143 S.E. 3; State v. Brown, 266 N.C. 55, 145 S.E.2d 297, and other cases which permitted such questions for impeachment. Chief Justice Bobbitt, writing the opinion of the Court, said: 'We now hold that, For purposes of impeachment, a witness, including the defendant in a criminal case, may Not be cross-examined as to whether he has been Indicted or is Under indictment for a criminal offense other than that for which he is then on trial. . . . A fortiori, we hold that, For purposes of impeachment, a witness, including the defendant in a criminal case, may Not be cross-examined as to whether he has been Accused, either informally or by affidavit on which a warrant is issued, of a criminal offense unrelated to the case on trial, nor cross-examined as to whether he has been Arrested for such unrelated criminal offense.' Id., 279 N.C. at 672, 185 S.E.2d at 180.

The trial of this case occurred before the decision in Williams. Although no longer permissible, the solicitor's questions with reference to defendant's arrest were then competent. However, the decision in Williams did not change the rule that for purposes of impeachment a witness may be asked whether he has Committed specific criminal acts or been guilty of specified reprehensible conduct. State v. Hartsell, 272 N.C. 710, 158 S.E.2d 785; State v. Bell, 249 N.C. 379, 106 S.E.2d 495; Stansbury, N.C. Evidence § 111 (2d Ed.1963). Had the solicitor's question been whether defendant had engaged in an affray on Thursday night instead of 'What were you arrested for'? it would have been permissible.

As the opinion in Williams pointed out, 'Whether a violation of the rule (against impeachment by evidence of criminal Charges as distinguished from convictions) will constitute sufficient ground for a new trial will depend upon the circumstances of the particular case.' Id., 279 N.C. at 674, 185 S.E.2d at 181. Therefore, even under Williams, the admission of the evidence with reference to defendant's arrest was inconsequential and constitutes no ground for a new trial.

Assignment of error No. 4 purports to raise the question whether the court erred 'in overruling defendant appellant's objections to questions by the solicitor concerning defendant's failure to have certain defense witnesses in court.' This assignment likewise does not comply with our Rule 19(3). The record page reference to which the assignment refers shows defendant to have testified without objection that Willie Ray, the man who (he said) had given him and Robinson a ride to the home of Robinson's mother, was not in court. When the solicitor asked defendant if he had subpoenaed Ray as a witness, defendant answered that Ray 'didn't want to come to court.' The solicitor's next question was, 'He didn't want to go on the stand and perjure himself, did he'? There was no objection to this question, which defendant answered by saying, 'He didn't have no reason to tell no lie.'

Defense counsel then objected 'about where he (Ray) is and what he was going to say.' The...

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57 cases
  • State v. Foster, 45
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 12, 1973
    ...206, 139 S.E. 230 (1927). Recent cases upholding this rule include State v. Mack, 282 N.C. 334, 193 S.E.2d 71 (1972); State v. Gainey, 280 N.C. 366, 185 S.E.2d 874 (1972); State v. Williams, 279 N.C. 663, 185 S.E.2d 174 (1971). Defendant concedes the rule to be as stated but requests the Co......
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    ...judge, and (2) the questions must be asked in good faith.' See also State v. Mack, 282 N.C. 334, 193 S.E.2d 71 (1972); State v. Gainey, 280 N.C. 366, 185 S.E.2d 874 (1972). Here, there was ample evidence to justify the district attorney in good faith to ask Alford if he had stolen the pisto......
  • State v. Hankerson, 56
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
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    ...defendant properly concedes the right of the State to cross-examine defendant as to specific acts of misconduct, State v. Gainey, 280 N.C. 366, 185 S.E.2d 874 (1972), and properly concedes that unlawfully shooting other people would be such misconduct. Defendant contends, however, that the ......
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    ...Pearson since such question concerned a specific act of misconduct. State v. Mack, 282 N.C. 334, 193 S.E.2d 71 (1972); State v. Gainey, 280 N.C. 366, 185 S.E.2d 874 (1972). Questions regarding specific acts of misconduct must be asked in good faith. State v. Mack, supra. Here, the question ......
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