State v. Grooms

Citation540 S.E.2d 713,353 N.C. 50
Decision Date21 December 2000
Docket NumberNo. 39A99.,39A99.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
PartiesSTATE of North Carolina v. Timmy Euvonne GROOMS.

Michael F. Easley, Attorney General, by Mary D. Winstead, Assistant Attorney General, for the State.

Leslie Ann Laufer, Durham, for defendant-appellant.

PARKER, Justice.

Defendant Timmy Euvonne Grooms was indicted on 11 April 1994 for robbery with a dangerous weapon, first-degree kidnapping, and first-degree murder in the kidnapping and killing of victim Krista Kay Godwin. On 31 October 1994 defendant was indicted for first-degree rape. Defendant was tried capitally and found guilty of first-degree murder on the basis of premeditation and deliberation and under the felony murder rule. He was also found guilty of first-degree rape, first-degree kidnapping, and robbery with a dangerous weapon. Following a capital sentencing proceeding, the jury recommended a sentence of death for the murder; and the trial court entered judgment accordingly. The trial court also sentenced defendant to consecutive sentences of forty years' imprisonment for defendant's convictions of robbery with a dangerous weapon and first-degree kidnapping and to life imprisonment for the first-degree rape conviction. For the reasons discussed herein, we conclude that defendant's trial was free from prejudicial error.

The State's evidence tended to show that defendant and Krista Kay Godwin were neighbors in Laurel Hill, North Carolina. On 14 February 1994, Godwin was planning an intimate Valentine's Day dinner with her fiancé, Michael McDaniel. Godwin spent the afternoon with a friend, Myra Martin. Around 6:30 p.m. Godwin spoke on the telephone with her mother and with McDaniel, who called Godwin from work during his 6:30 break. Godwin and Martin then went to Rita Quick's house for approximately thirty or forty-five minutes. While at Quick's house, Godwin ate some dinner and phoned her mother. Godwin and Martin returned to Godwin's home, and Martin left around 7:30 p.m. Godwin called her father between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. and told her father that she was waiting for McDaniel to come home from work.

McDaniel attempted to phone Godwin from work around 10:00 p.m. When no one answered his repeated attempts to call Godwin, McDaniel became concerned and left work early. McDaniel arrived at Godwin's home around 10:25 p.m. The front door was unlocked; the lights were on; the dogs were in the yard; and Godwin's shoes, purse, and jacket were in the house, but Godwin was missing. McDaniel phoned Martin, Godwin's father, and the police. Martin then phoned the police, the hospital, and Quick. Godwin's father helped McDaniel search the neighborhood for Godwin.

Meanwhile, around 6:00 p.m. Chad Miller noticed defendant straddling his bike in some bushes near Godwin's house. Miller called out to defendant, and defendant rode away on his bike without answering. Miller proceeded to downtown Laurel Hill, where he sat on the steps of an abandoned building and drank beer with defendant. Miller walked defendant home, leaving defendant at the house defendant shared with Hope Norton at approximately 9:00 p.m. Around 10:00 or 10:15 p.m. Kenneth Boswell noticed defendant and Godwin standing together on a street corner. At approximately 1:00 a.m. Shirley Johnson nearly hit defendant with her car as he ran down the street from the direction of Mildred's Florist Shop. Johnson told law enforcement officers that defendant was wearing a blue jacket, a dark hat, and light-colored jeans. Defendant then returned home twice for short periods, both times without the blue jacket that he frequently wore and that he had been wearing earlier.

When defendant returned home the next morning, his face was scratched; and he was bleeding from a long cut on his arm. Defendant told Norton that two black men had assaulted him, that his dog had scratched his face, that he had gotten scratched riding his bicycle under a tree, and that he had gotten scratched in some bushes while breaking into a house. Defendant also told Norton that he had thrown away his jacket. Later, defendant told Norton that he had buried the other clothing he had worn that night and that the police would never find this other clothing.

On the morning of 16 February 1994 Marvin Radford, Jr., discovered a severed human hand when he climbed onto the roof of Mildred's Florist Shop to patch some leaks. On that same day a search team looked for Godwin in a nearby wooded area. As he walked through the wooded area, Deputy Thomas Butler discovered a negligee. Deputy Butler continued to search the surrounding area until he saw human toes sticking up from some pine straw. Deputy Butler then recognized the outline of a human body, which was later uncovered and identified as Godwin.

The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Godwin found a total of twelve stab wounds on Godwin's body, all of which were inflicted by the same instrument, possibly a pocketknife. One stab wound perforated Godwin's aorta and would have caused Godwin's death within minutes; however, several other wounds that penetrated Godwin's chest cavity were potentially fatal. The pathologist found numerous linear scratches and scrapes on Godwin's back and on the back of Godwin's legs that were consistent with the dragging of the body. Additionally, Godwin's face exhibited scrapes and extensive bruising around the eyes and nose resulting from blunt-force trauma inflicted while Godwin was still alive. Internal bleeding and hemorrhaging in the tissues of the neck indicated that Godwin had been choked before she was stabbed. Vaginal smears revealed the presence of intact sperm. Godwin's right hand had been sawed off at the forearm; and Godwin's left hand had been partially sawed off, then the bone had been forcibly broken or snapped. The contents of Godwin's stomach indicated that Godwin had eaten her last meal within four or five hours of her death.

Additional facts will be presented as needed to discuss specific issues.


In his first assignment of error, defendant contends that he was denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 18 of the North Carolina Constitution. Defendant also contends that he was deprived of his constitutional right to effective assistance of counsel as a result of defense counsel's failure to assert defendant's right to a speedy trial. Before trial defense counsel filed various motions seeking to compel discovery from the State; and defendant filed several pro se motions, including a petition for writ of habeas corpus. At a pretrial hearing on 26 February 1997, defendant clarified for the trial court that his request for a writ of habeas corpus was based on his inability to prepare for trial without discovery from the State; and defendant mentioned that he had been denied his right to a speedy trial. However, defense counsel never demanded a speedy trial, nor did counsel file a motion to dismiss for failure to provide a speedy trial.

Having elected for representation by appointed defense counsel, defendant cannot also file motions on his own behalf or attempt to represent himself. Defendant has no right to appear both by himself and by counsel. See N.C.G.S. § 1-11 (1999); State v. Parton, 303 N.C. 55, 61, 277 S.E.2d 410, 415 (1981), disavowed on other grounds by State v. Freeman, 314 N.C. 432, 437-38, 333 S.E.2d 743, 746-47 (1985)

; State v. Phillip, 261 N.C. 263, 268, 134 S.E.2d 386, 391,

cert. denied, 377 U.S. 1003, 84 S.Ct. 1939, 12 L.Ed.2d 1052 (1964). Thus, defendant waived appellate review of this issue by failing to properly raise the constitutional issue in the trial court. See State v. Barnes, 345 N.C. 184, 237, 481 S.E.2d 44, 73,

cert. denied, 522 U.S. 876, 118 S.Ct. 196, 139 L.Ed.2d 134 (1997), and cert. denied, 523 U.S. 1024, 118 S.Ct. 1309, 140 L.Ed.2d 473 (1998).

Assuming arguendo that the speedy trial issue was raised in the trial court, defendant's right to a speedy trial was not violated. In Barker v. Wingo, 407 U.S. 514, 530, 92 S.Ct. 2182, 2192, 33 L.Ed.2d 101, 117 (1972), the United States Supreme Court identified four factors "which courts should assess in determining whether a particular defendant has been deprived of his right" to a speedy trial under the federal Constitution. These factors are: (i) the length of delay, (ii) the reason for the delay, (iii) the defendant's assertion of his right to a speedy trial, and (iv) whether the defendant has suffered prejudice as a result of the delay. See id.; see also State v. Flowers, 347 N.C. 1, 27, 489 S.E.2d 391, 406 (1997),

cert. denied, 522 U.S. 1135, 118 S.Ct. 1094, 140 L.Ed.2d 150 (1998). We follow the same analysis when reviewing such claims under Article I, Section 18 of the North Carolina Constitution. See Flowers, 347 N.C. at 27,

489 S.E.2d at 406; State v. Jones, 310 N.C. 716, 721, 314 S.E.2d 529, 532-33 (1984).

First, the length of the delay is not per se determinative of whether the defendant has been deprived of his right to a speedy trial. See State v. Webster, 337 N.C. 674, 678, 447 S.E.2d 349, 351 (1994)

. The United States Supreme Court has found postaccusation delay "presumptively prejudicial" as it approaches one year. Doggett v. United States, 505 U.S. 647, 652 n. 1, 112 S.Ct. 2686, 2691 n.1, 120 L.Ed.2d 520, 528 n. 1 (1992). However, presumptive prejudice "does not necessarily indicate a statistical probability of prejudice; it simply marks the point at which courts deem the delay unreasonable enough to trigger the Barker enquiry." Id. In this case the length of delay, from indictment to trial, was 3 years and 326 days. This delay is clearly enough to trigger examination of the other factors.

Second, defendant has the burden of showing that the delay was caused by the neglect or willfulness of the prosecution. See Webster, 337 N.C. at 679,

447 S.E.2d at 351. Here, defendant...

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