State v. Keller, 051920 NCCA, COA19-538

Docket Nº:COA19-538
Opinion Judge:BRYANT, JUDGE.
Party Name:STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA v. KAREN NICOLE KELLER
Attorney:Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Kacy L. Hunt, for the State. Meghan Adelle Jones for defendant-appellant.
Judge Panel:Judges COLLINS and HAMPSON concur.
Case Date:May 19, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of North Carolina
 
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STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA

v.

KAREN NICOLE KELLER

No. COA19-538

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An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority.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.

Heard in the Court of Appeals 4 December 2019.

Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 18 July 2018 by Judge Andrew Taube Heath in Martin County Superior Court, Nos. 16 CRS 50527-28, 17 CRS 12-14

Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Kacy L. Hunt, for the State.

Meghan Adelle Jones for defendant-appellant.

BRYANT, JUDGE.

Where defendant failed to assert her statutory right to a capacity hearing and was not denied due process, the trial court did not err in proceeding to trial. Where the indictment was sufficiently specific and facially valid, the trial court did not err in entering judgment upon conviction.

Defendant Karen Nicole Keller is the mother of three children: Timothy, born in July 2013; Keith, born in October 2014; and Lauren, born in October 2015.1 On 29 August 2015, Keith was taken to a hospital and treated for abrasions and skin infection. Defendant told the treating physician that Keith had fallen and "hit his face and forehead."

On 30 January 2017, four felony indictments were issued charging defendant as follows: felony child abuse ("FCA") inflicting serious bodily injury upon Keith from asphyxiation resulting in loss of consciousness occurring on 20 Oct 2015 [16 CRS 50527]; FCA inflicting serious bodily injury by holding Keith's head under a running faucet in an attempt to drown him [17 CRS 12]; FCA inflicting serious physical injury to Keith causing burns from scalding hot water [17 CRS 13]; and, FCA inflicting serious physical injury to Keith by causing bruises and lacerations to his chin, face, and head area occurring on 29 August 2015 [17 CRS 14]. A misdemeanor child abuse warrant was issued to defendant on 24 May 2016 for causing bruises to the cheek of Timothy on or about 30 November 2013. [16 CRS 50528]

Prior to charges being filed, defendant had admitted to slapping and biting four-month-old Timothy causing bruises to his check; admitted to holding Keith's face under running water for ten to fifteen seconds; admitted to pouring scalding water over Keith's body; admitted to choking Keith; and admitted to placing her hand over Keith's mouth to prevent his crying until he turned blue.

Defendant was tried by a jury before the Honorable Andrew T. Heath, Judge presiding, on 16 July 2018. The State presented significant evidence at trial. In addition to defendant's pretrial admissions, the State introduced expert medical testimony, photographic testimony showing the extent of injuries to Keith and Timothy, as well as witness testimony from law enforcement and DSS, which served to corroborate the charges against defendant.

Defendant was found guilty as charged and sentenced accordingly. Defendant appeals.

On appeal, defendant argues the trial court erred by I) failing to conduct a capacity hearing and II) entering judgment upon conviction where the indictment was facially invalid.

I

First, defendant argues the trial court erred, and thereby denied her right to due process, by deciding to proceed with trial when her capacity was in question. We disagree.

Generally, a "defendant's failure to object to...

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