State v. Hardy, No. 169A99.

Docket NºNo. 169A99.
Citation540 S.E.2d 334, 353 N.C. 122
Case DateDecember 21, 2000
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

540 S.E.2d 334
353 N.C. 122

STATE of North Carolina,
v.
Melvin James HARDY, Jr

No. 169A99.

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

December 21, 2000.


540 S.E.2d 338
Michael F. Easley, Attorney General, by Robert C. Montgomery, Assistant Attorney General, for the State

Burton Craige, Raleigh, for defendant-appellant.

PARKER, Justice.

Defendant Melvin James Hardy, Jr., was indicted for the first-degree murder of Andrew Ray and for robbery with a dangerous weapon. 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 robbery with a dangerous

540 S.E.2d 339
weapon. Following a capital sentencing proceeding, the jury recommended a sentence of death for the murder conviction; and the trial court entered judgment accordingly. The trial court also sentenced defendant to a term of 146 to 185 months' imprisonment for defendant's conviction of robbery with a dangerous weapon

The State's evidence tended to show that defendant was an employee of the Hardee's restaurant where the victim was an assistant manager. On 19 March 1997 defendant gave his friend Essa Davidson a duffel bag containing a shotgun and a Bojangle's uniform. Defendant told Davidson to come to the restaurant that evening with the duffel bag and wearing the uniform. While working at the restaurant later that night, defendant had a telephone conversation with Martha Nicole Morris, a co-worker, during which he told her that he planned to rob the restaurant and that the victim would not "be able to tell it" because defendant was "going to kill him."

Around 9:45 p.m. Davidson arrived at the restaurant in the uniform and carrying the duffel bag containing the shotgun. Defendant took the bag from Davidson and went to the kitchen. Defendant then walked the victim into his office at gunpoint and ordered the victim to open the safe. Shortly thereafter, Davidson and two other employees, Patricia Robinson and J.T. Sturdivant, heard a gunshot. Davidson then saw defendant holding the shotgun while standing over the victim, who was lying on the floor with his legs twitching.

Defendant came out of the office and told Davidson, Robinson, and Sturdivant to gather the money and clean up. Defendant asked Robinson how much money she wanted. Robinson initially refused to take any money, but then agreed to take two hundred dollars. Defendant told Robinson to mop, but she could not do so after seeing the victim's feet in a pool of blood on the floor.

Defendant told the others to act as if it were an ordinary day by cleaning up and clocking out as usual and told Robinson and Sturdivant to say that the victim was alive when they left. Defendant, Sturdivant, and Davidson then divided the remaining money, approximately $1,600. Defendant, Sturdivant, and Robinson left; and Davidson remained behind to find out the bus schedule.

Davidson could not find a bus schedule, so he went across the street to a Harris Teeter grocery store to call a cab from the pay phone. Davidson was carrying the blue duffel bag with him at this time. A security guard from the grocery store spoke with Davidson and told him that he could use the store phone. Davidson and the guard then went inside the store.

During this time, the victim's wife, Elichia Ray, had arrived at the Hardee's to drive the victim home. Ray became concerned when the victim did not come out of the restaurant and called the district manager to come check inside the store. The district manager called the general manager, Martin Green, and asked him to go to the store. Once Green arrived, he and Ray went inside the store and discovered the victim's body. Green took Ray out to the parking lot and had to restrain her, as she was screaming and trying to go back inside the store.

Davidson and the guard noticed Ray screaming, with Green restraining her, in the Hardee's parking lot. The guard called the police from a phone inside the grocery store, then went to help Ray. The police arrived; and the guard told them what was happening, then returned to the grocery store. At that point Davidson was sitting down inside the grocery store. The guard asked Davidson if he had seen anything earlier at the Hardee's, and Davidson responded that he had not. Davidson left the store, carrying the blue duffel bag. The guard then returned to the Hardee's parking lot and described Davidson and the duffel bag he was carrying to the officers.

The guard rode with the officers and located Davidson walking down the street. Davidson was no longer carrying the duffel bag. The officers picked up Davidson, who then led them to the duffel bag, which he had hidden near the Harris Teeter. Among the items in the duffel bag were a shotgun, a paper bag containing coins, and two shirts bearing Hardee's restaurant logos. The officers took Davidson to the police station, where he eventually told them what happened.

540 S.E.2d 340
Police later determined that a live shot shell found in the shotgun was the same type and brand as a shell casing and pellets found at the crime scene. Furthermore, tests confirmed that the shell found at the crime scene had been fired from the shotgun

The pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim found that the victim suffered a close-range shotgun wound to the head inflicted at an angle consistent with the victim kneeling or sitting. The pathologist opined that the victim died within five to ten minutes after the shooting as a result of brain damage and blood loss.

Prior to this incident, on 12 June 1995, defendant and Davidson drove sixteen-year-old Kedrin Bradley to Reedy Creek Park, telling her they were going to a church picnic. Once there, defendant told Bradley to leave her beeper and jewelry in the car and to go for a walk with them. After about ten minutes walking on the trail, defendant told Bradley he was robbing her. He pulled out a bandana, placed it around her neck, and began choking her. Defendant then dragged Bradley into the woods and beat her with a stick. Bradley died as a result of the attack. Defendant and Davidson were charged with Bradley's murder on 6 December 1995. At the time of the killing of the victim in this case, both defendant and Davidson were on pretrial release for the killing of Bradley. Defendant was convicted for Bradley's murder on 11 June 1998, prior to the trial of this case.

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

JURY SELECTION

Defendant first contends that the trial court erred in overruling defendant's objection to the State's impermissible use of a peremptory challenge to strike from the jury a black prospective juror, William Carter, solely on account of his race. Article I, Section 26 of the Constitution of North Carolina prohibits the use of peremptory challenges for racially discriminatory reasons, see State v. Fletcher, 348 N.C. 292, 312, 500 S.E.2d 668, 680 (1998), cert. denied, 525 U.S. 1180, 119 S.Ct. 1118, 143 L.Ed.2d 113 (1999), as does the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, see Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 89, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 1719, 90 L.Ed.2d 69, 83 (1986).

In Batson the United States Supreme Court established a three-part test to determine if the prosecutor has engaged in impermissible racial discrimination in the selection of jurors. See Hernandez v. New York, 500 U.S. 352, 358, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 1865, 114 L.Ed.2d 395, 405 (1991) (citing Batson, 476 U.S. at 96-98, 106 S.Ct. at 1722-24, 90 L.Ed.2d at 87-89). First, the defendant must establish a prima facie case that the State has exercised a peremptory challenge on the basis of race. See id.

Second, once the prima facie case has been established by the defendant, the burden shifts to the State to rebut the inference of discrimination by offering a race-neutral explanation for attempting to strike the juror in question. See id. at 358-59, 111 S.Ct. at 1865-66, 114 L.Ed.2d at 405; see also State v. Gaines, 345 N.C. 647, 668, 483 S.E.2d 396, 408, cert. denied, 522 U.S. 900, 118 S.Ct. 248, 139 L.Ed.2d 177 (1997). The explanation must be clear and reasonably specific, but "`need not rise to the level justifying exercise of a challenge for cause.'" State v. Porter, 326 N.C. 489, 498, 391 S.E.2d 144, 151 (1990) (quoting Batson, 476 U.S. at 97, 106 S.Ct. at 1723, 90 L.Ed.2d at 88). The prosecutor is not required to provide a race-neutral reason that is persuasive or even plausible. See Fletcher, 348 N.C. at 313, 500 S.E.2d at 680. The issue at this stage is the facial validity of the prosecutor's explanation; and unless a discriminatory intent is inherent in the explanation, the reason offered will be deemed race-neutral. See State v. Barnes, 345 N.C. 184, 209-10, 481 S.E.2d 44, 57, 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). Our courts also permit the defendant to introduce evidence at this point that the prosecutor's explanations are merely a pretext. See Gaines, 345 N.C. at 668, 483 S.E.2d at 408.

Third, and finally, the trial court must make the ultimate determination as to

540 S.E.2d 341
whether the defendant has carried his burden of proving purposeful discrimination. See Hernandez, 500 U.S. at 359, 111 S.Ct. at 1866, 114 L.Ed.2d at 405; Fletcher, 348 N.C. at 313, 500 S.E.2d at 680. As this determination is essentially a question of fact, the trial court's decision as to whether the prosecutor had a discriminatory intent is to be given great deference and will be upheld unless the appellate court is convinced that the trial court's determination is clearly erroneous. See Fletcher, 348 N.C. at 313, 500 S.E.2d at 680; State v. Kandies, 342 N.C. 419, 434-35, 467 S.E.2d 67, 75, cert. denied, 519 U.S. 894, 117 S.Ct. 237, 136 L.Ed.2d 167 (1996). "`Where there are two permissible views of the evidence, the...

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37 practice notes
  • State v. King, No. 204A99.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • June 8, 2001
    ...explanation for striking the particular juror. Hernandez, 500 U.S. at 358-59, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 114 L.Ed.2d at 405; State v. Hardy, 353 N.C. 122, 128, 540 S.E.2d 334, 340 (2000). The prosecutor's explanation must be clear and reasonably specific, but "`need not rise to the level justifyi......
  • State v. Anthony, No. 183A00.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 18, 2001
    ...(2000) (quoting State v. Simpson, 314 N.C. 359, 370, 334 S.E.2d 53, 60 (1985)) (second alteration in original); see also State v. Hardy, 353 N.C. 122, 134, 540 S.E.2d 334, 344 (2000) (Because "defendant made no offer of proof to show the content of the excluded conversation, this Court......
  • State v. Hooks, No. 89A00.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • July 20, 2001
    ...therefore, we review the record to determine whether the instruction constituted plain error. N.C. R.App. P. 10(b)(2); State v. Hardy, 353 N.C. 122, 131, 540 S.E.2d 334, 342 Under a plain error analysis, defendant is entitled to a new trial only if the error was so fundamental that, absent ......
  • State v. Tirado
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • August 13, 2004
    ...show that all the jurors have so indicated. Because jurors are presumed to follow the instructions of the trial court, State v. Hardy, 353 N.C. 122, 138, 540 S.E.2d 334, 346 (2000), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 840, 122 S.Ct. 96, 151 L.Ed.2d 56 (2001), we conclude that Queen's constitutional righ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
37 cases
  • State v. King, No. 204A99.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • June 8, 2001
    ...explanation for striking the particular juror. Hernandez, 500 U.S. at 358-59, 111 S.Ct. 1859, 114 L.Ed.2d at 405; State v. Hardy, 353 N.C. 122, 128, 540 S.E.2d 334, 340 (2000). The prosecutor's explanation must be clear and reasonably specific, but "`need not rise to the level justifying ex......
  • State v. Anthony, No. 183A00.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • December 18, 2001
    ...(2000) (quoting State v. Simpson, 314 N.C. 359, 370, 334 S.E.2d 53, 60 (1985)) (second alteration in original); see also State v. Hardy, 353 N.C. 122, 134, 540 S.E.2d 334, 344 (2000) (Because "defendant made no offer of proof to show the content of the excluded conversation, this Court is p......
  • State v. Hooks, No. 89A00.
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • July 20, 2001
    ...therefore, we review the record to determine whether the instruction constituted plain error. N.C. R.App. P. 10(b)(2); State v. Hardy, 353 N.C. 122, 131, 540 S.E.2d 334, 342 Under a plain error analysis, defendant is entitled to a new trial only if the error was so fundamental that, absent ......
  • State v. Tirado
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • August 13, 2004
    ...show that all the jurors have so indicated. Because jurors are presumed to follow the instructions of the trial court, State v. Hardy, 353 N.C. 122, 138, 540 S.E.2d 334, 346 (2000), cert. denied, 534 U.S. 840, 122 S.Ct. 96, 151 L.Ed.2d 56 (2001), we conclude that Queen's constitutional righ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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