State v. Medina Nova, 031720 NCCA, COA19-462

Docket Nº:COA19-462
Opinion Judge:DIETZ, JUDGE
Party Name:STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA v. VICTOR MANUEL MEDINA NOVA
Attorney:Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Brittany Edwards, for the State. Joseph P. Lattimore for defendant.
Judge Panel:Judges DILLON and ARROWOOD concur.
Case Date:March 17, 2020
Court:Court of Appeals of North Carolina
 
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STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA

v.

VICTOR MANUEL MEDINA NOVA

No. COA19-462

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

March 17, 2020

Heard in the Court of Appeals 14 November 2019.

Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 25 October 2018 by Judge Athena Fox Brooks in Gaston County No. 18 CRS 50863 Superior Court.

Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Brittany Edwards, for the State.

Joseph P. Lattimore for defendant.

DIETZ, JUDGE

It is fairly common for jurors, during deliberations, to ask for a transcript of witness testimony. It happened in this criminal case. The trial court responded as follows: "This is one of those things unlike on TV those are not real-time, those are not made as they are testifying. It would take us a couple of weeks at the fastest to make those. So that's just not able to be done."

Were this a case of first impression, we would hold that the trial court's statement was an appropriate exercise of the court's discretion. But this is not a new issue. In a series of indistinguishable cases, our State's appellate courts have held that trial court statements like the one quoted above, denying jury requests for transcripts because there is no "real-time" transcript, is error. This is so, these courts reasoned, because it is unclear whether the trial court understood it had discretion to grant the jury's request and wait for the transcript to be prepared.

We are constrained to follow this controlling precedent here and so we must vacate the judgment and remand for a new trial. But we believe the Supreme Court should review this line of cases. Precedent aside, it readily can be inferred from the trial court's statement that the court understood it had discretion to order a transcript but chose not to do so because it was impractical given the length of time necessary to prepare one.

Facts and Procedural History

A grand jury indicted Defendant Victor Manuel Medina Nova for taking indecent liberties with a child. The case went to trial. The alleged juvenile victim testified at the trial, as did Nova.

During deliberations, the jury sent notes to the trial court asking, "can we read transcript of defendant's testimony" and "can we see [the juvenile's] transcript from his testimony." Outside the presence of the jury, the trial court first informed the parties that "we do not have real-time transcripts, so they will be directed to remember their own memory of the testimony." The trial court then brought the jury into the courtroom and instructed them that "[t]his is one of those things unlike on TV those are not real-time, those are not made as they are testifying. It would take us a couple of weeks at the fastest to make those. So that's just not able to be done. You should rely upon your memory of what the testimony...

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