State v. Hester, COA16-1120

Citation803 S.E.2d 8
Case DateJuly 18, 2017
CourtCourt of Appeal of North Carolina (US)

Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Joseph L. Hyde, for the State.

Appellate Defender Glenn Gerding, by Assistant Appellate Defender Kathryn L. VandenBerg, for defendant-appellant.

TYSON, Judge.

Darius Terrell Hester ("Defendant") appeals from his conviction of felonious possession of a stolen firearm following the trial court's denial of his motion to suppress. Due to Defendant's failure to object at trial, this issue is properly before us solely upon plain error review. Defendant has failed to carry his burden to show error or plain error in the jury's verdict or the judgment entered thereon.

I. Background

New Hanover County Sheriff's Deputy Joshua Cranford was familiar with the Rockhill Road area in Wilmington, as he regularly patrolled that area as part of his patrol route. He described the area as having a history of criminal gang and drug activity. Deputy Cranford testified a recent home invasion had occurred in the area and numerous "break-ins" in the past. He had personally made one arrest for home invasion. He was unable to specifically recall making any arrests for breaking and entering or drug activity in the area. Deputy Cranford testified that officers generally share information with each other about areas where criminal activity is afoot and crimes are committed.

New Hanover County Sheriff's Detective Kenneth Murphy had served as a law enforcement officer for seventeen years. He also testified about criminal activity in the Rockhill Road area. Three homicides occurred in the neighborhood between 1999 and 2003. Detective Murphy testified the area was "known for" breaking and entering, drug activity, and drive-by shootings. He was unaware of when the most recent breaking and entering crimes had occurred prior to 16 August 2013.

At around 10:30 a.m. on Friday, 16 August 2013, Deputy Cranford was patrolling the area in his marked patrol car and turned onto Rockhill Road. He was unaware of whether any crimes had been committed in the area that morning or the previous night. After driving approximately one-half mile on Rockhill Road, Deputy Cranford noticed a car was pulled over toward the side of the road, but was partially parked on the travel lane of the roadway. He initially believed the car might be disabled. As Deputy Cranford's marked patrol car approached the front of the parked vehicle and came within fifty yards of the vehicle, it moved and the driver drove away "in a normal fashion."

When the car pulled away, Deputy Cranford "saw [Defendant] walk away from the vehicle and cross the road in front of [him] and continue up Rockhill Road in the opposite direction." Deputy Cranford did not know whether Defendant had gotten out of the car or had been speaking with anyone inside the car.

Deputy Cranford also testified he believed the car had pulled away and Defendant had crossed the road in reaction to his arrival and presence. He further testified he did not know "if [Defendant] was lost," or whether a drug deal had just occurred. He believed Defendant may have been dropped off on the road in order to break into people's homes.

Deputy Cranford testified he "wanted to get outside and investigate and make sure everything was okay," because of the "area that we were in" and the fact that Defendant walked from the car and the car pulled away as he approached. Deputy Cranford turned his vehicle around, activated his blue lights, and stopped Defendant.

Deputy Cranford exited his patrol car and asked Defendant whether he possessed any drugs or weapons. Defendant responded that he did not. Deputy Cranford asked Defendant for identification. Defendant did not possess a photo identification, but gave Deputy Cranford his name and date of birth. Defendant was initially polite and cooperative. He asked Deputy Cranford if he had done anything wrong. Deputy Cranford responded that he had not done anything wrong.

Deputy Cranford asked Defendant to remain at the front of his patrol car while he sat inside his patrol car. Deputy Cranford contacted the Sheriff's dispatcher to determine whether Defendant had any outstanding arrest warrants.

Defendant walked from the front of the patrol car to the driver's side and "stood [at] the entrance of the car door," which made Deputy Cranford "uncomfortable." Deputy Cranford instructed Defendant to return to the front of the patrol car. Moments later, Defendant "tried to do the same thing again." At that point, Deputy Cranford exited his patrol car, stood at the front of the car with Defendant, and awaited a response from the Sheriff's dispatcher. The Sheriff's dispatcher informed Deputy Cranford that Defendant had no outstanding warrants, but that he was "known to carry" a concealed weapon based upon a prior charge for carrying a concealed weapon.

Deputy Cranford again asked Defendant whether he possessed a weapon. Defendant lied and responded that he did not. At that point, Deputy Cranford observed a slight bulge under Defendant's shirt. Defendant became confrontational when Deputy Cranford asked him to lift his shirt. Defendant lifted his shirt and pulled a handgun from his waistband. Deputy Cranford testified that Defendant pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger. He heard the hammer click, but the weapon did not discharge.

Deputy Cranford testified he backed up and drew his weapon. He began to fire shots at Defendant, who fled while still carrying his handgun. Deputy Cranford chased Defendant down a dirt path and lost sight of him as Defendant rounded a corner. Deputy Cranford turned the corner and saw Defendant lying on the ground. Defendant had been shot in the shoulder. Defendant told Deputy Cranford he had dropped his gun. Deputy Cranford placed Defendant under arrest.

Deputy Cranford recovered Defendant's handgun in the dirt path about twenty yards away. The recovered gun was found to be loaded with a full clip and it had been reported as stolen from a home in Wilmington in 2013. At trial, Defendant testified he had bought the gun "from off the streets" and that he knew such guns were typically stolen.

Defendant was indicted and tried on the charges of attempted murder and possession of a stolen firearm. Defendant testified he did not point the gun at Deputy Cranford or pull the trigger. He stated he was attempting to hand Deputy Cranford the gun, with the barrel pointed toward the ground.

Defendant testified Deputy Cranford reacted with shock and reached for his weapon. Defendant ran. He stated he was holding the handgun when he ran, but threw it prior to being shot. Defendant was acquitted of the attempted murder charge. The jury found him to be guilty of possession of a stolen firearm. Defendant appeals.

II. Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction lies in this Court from final judgment of the superior court entered upon the jury's verdict pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 7A-27(b)(1) and 15A-1444(a) (2015).

III. Standard of Review and Defendant's Preservation of Error

"The standard of review in evaluating the denial of a motion to suppress is whether competent evidence supports the trial court's findings of fact and whether the findings of fact support the conclusions of law." State v. Biber, 365 N.C. 162, 167-68, 712 S.E.2d 874, 878 (2011) (citing State v. Brooks, 337 N.C. 132, 140-41, 446 S.E.2d 579, 585 (1994) ).

Defendant's motion to suppress was heard prior to trial. The trial court denied the motion immediately following the presentation of evidence and arguments of counsel. Defendant concedes defense counsel failed to object when the evidence resulting from the stop, and particularly the stolen handgun, was offered at trial. The admission of the handgun evidence must be reviewed for plain error. State v. Golphin , 352 N.C. 364, 405, 533 S.E.2d 168, 198 (2000) (holding a motion in limine is insufficient "to preserve for appeal the question of admissibility of evidence if the defendant did not object to the evidence at the time it was offered at trial"), cert. denied , 532 U.S. 931, 121 S.Ct. 1380, 149 L.Ed.2d 305 (2001).

At trial, Defendant failed to object to numerous references to his possession of the stolen handgun, or to object to the tender and admission of the handgun into evidence. During his testimony, Defendant acknowledged he had purchased and possessed the stolen handgun, but denied pointing it at Deputy Cranford or pulling the trigger.

The State argues Defendant elicited the same evidence and testified at trial, and is not entitled to plain error review, because he invited the error. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1443(c) (2015) ("A defendant is not prejudiced by the granting of relief which he has sought or by error resulting from his own conduct."). The State cites State v. Gobal , 186 N.C.App. 308, 319, 651 S.E.2d 279, 287 (2007), aff'd per curiam , 362 N.C. 342, 661 S.E.2d 732 (2008) ("Statements elicited by a defendant on cross-examination are, even if error, invited error, by which a defendant cannot be prejudiced as a matter of law.").

Once the trial court denied Defendant's motion to suppress based upon lack of reasonable suspicion for the stop, Defendant was required to defend against the charges of attempted murder and felonious possession of a stolen firearm. He defended the charges by testifying about the circumstances surrounding his possession of the stolen handgun. This testimony was subject to cross-examination by the State.

While defending against the attempted murder charge, Defendant testified to explain his actions of surrendering the weapon and stated he did not point or fire his gun at Deputy Cranford. A defendant does not waive an objection to evidence by seeking "to explain, impeach or destroy its value." State v. Badgett , 361 N.C. 234, 246, 644 S.E.2d 206, 213 (citation omitted), cert. denied , 552 U.S. 997, 128 S.Ct. 502, 169 L.Ed.2d 351 (2007). Defendant's appeal from the denial of his motion to...

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 cases
  • State v. Duncan
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • July 7, 2020
    ...of the official misconduct." Id. at ––––, 136 S.Ct. at 2062, 195 L. Ed. 2d at 408 (citations omitted); see also State v. Hester , 254 N.C. App. 506, 517, 803 S.E.2d 8, 17 (2017) (applying Strieff ’s three-factor test). Applying the first factor, the Strieff Court "declined to find that this......
  • State v. Womble
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • April 20, 2021
    ...and run any horse to race on appeal to sustain the legally correct conclusion of the order appealed from." State v. Hester , 254 N.C. App. 506, 516, 803 S.E.2d 8, 16 (2017) (emphasis original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).¶ 50 The trial court acted within its inherent po......
  • State v. Thomas
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • October 15, 2019
    ...doctrine."[E]vidence discovered as a result of an illegal search or seizure is generally excluded at trial." State v. Hester , ––– N.C. App ––––, ––––, 803 S.E.2d 8, 14 (2017) (citing Wong Sun v. United States , 371 U.S. 471, 487-88, 83 S.Ct. 407, 417-18, 9 L. Ed. 2d 441, 455 (1963) ). "[T]......
  • State v. Thompson
    • United States
    • North Carolina Court of Appeals
    • August 20, 2019
    ...and run any horse to race on appeal to sustain the legally correct conclusion of the order appealed from. State v. Hester , ––– N.C. App. ––––, ––––, 803 S.E.2d 8, 16 (2017) (purgandum ).On remand, we have been instructed to review this case in light of Wilson which states:a warrant to sear......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT