State v. Payne

Decision Date09 September 1994
Docket NumberNo. 355A92,355A92
CourtNorth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesSTATE of North Carolina v. Randy Joe PAYNE.

Malcolm Ray Hunter, Jr., Appellate Defender by Benjamin Sendor, Asst. Appellate Defender, for defendant-appellant.

Michael F. Easley, Atty. Gen. by Ralf F. Haskell, Sp. Deputy Atty. Gen., for state.

WHICHARD, Justice.

This appeal is from a resentencing proceeding. In 1985 at defendant's first trial, he was convicted of the first-degree rape and first-degree murder of Kathleen Weaver, a sixty-nine year-old widow, and sentenced to death for the murder and a consecutive mandatory life sentence for the rape. On defendant's first appeal, we ordered a new trial. See State v. Payne, 320 N.C. 138, 357 S.E.2d 612 (1987). In 1988 at defendant's second trial, he again was convicted of the first-degree rape and first-degree murder of Kathleen Weaver. He was sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment for the first-degree rape, to run consecutively to the death sentence he received for the first-degree murder. On defendant's second appeal, State v. Payne, 328 N.C. 377, 402 S.E.2d 582 (1991) [hereinafter Payne II ], we found no error in the guilt phase of his trial but ordered a new sentencing proceeding on the first-degree murder conviction based on the United States Supreme Court's decision in McKoy v. North Carolina, 494 U.S. 433, 110 S.Ct. 1227, 108 L.Ed.2d 369, on remand, 327 N.C. 31, 394 S.E.2d 426 (1990). The evidence presented in the guilt phase of defendant's trial is summarized in Payne II, 328 N.C. at 384-86, 402 S.E.2d at 586-87. The issues raised here relate only to resentencing; therefore, we will discuss only such evidence as is necessary for this appeal.

The State's evidence tended to show that on 9 November 1983 Kathleen Weaver lived alone in Lexington, North Carolina. On that day between 10:15 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Frances Leonard, an employee of an animal hospital located across from Mrs. Weaver's home, was looking out a window of the hospital toward the back door of Mrs. Weaver's home. She saw the back door fly open. A man ran from the house, across the yard, and jumped over a chain-link fence. She saw something green in the man's hand and noted that he was wearing a white or yellow T-shirt and jeans or faded pants. She left the window to alert a fellow worker. When she returned she saw a man's feet sticking out of the door of a barn located behind the hospital.

Sergeant Robert Henderson and Officer Kenneth Owens from the Sheriff's Department arrived at approximately 10:40 a.m. They entered the barn and noticed a can of gasoline. They found defendant asleep upstairs in a loft. He was wearing blue jeans and a brown shirt.

Sergeant Henderson then entered Mrs. Weaver's home where he found her body covered in blood on the floor. Her legs were spread apart and her pajamas were split in the crotch area. He noticed that there were bloodstains on the bed, which was in disarray. He left the house and secured the scene.

Chief Deputy Johnson arrived shortly thereafter and entered Mrs. Weaver's home. He saw that the back door had been pried open and found bloodstains in the kitchen and hallway. He entered the bedroom and saw Mrs. Weaver's body. He noted that there were several wounds on her left hand that appeared to be defense wounds. Johnson then left the house and went to the barn. He raised a loose board in the floor of the barn and found a hatchet and a white sock drenched in blood. The hatchet and sock were only a few feet inside the door, which suggested that had a man run into the barn and either fallen or lain down to put something under the board in the floor, his feet would stick out of the barn door.

Defendant was taken into custody and advised of his Miranda rights. He stated that he understood his rights and refused to answer questions about Mrs. Weaver, denying that he knew her. Chief Deputy Johnson noticed that during the questioning defendant did not slur his words. He stated that there was nothing unusual about defendant's eyes nor was there an odor of alcohol about his person. He did not think defendant was under the influence of alcohol or any other narcotic.

Dr. Robert Anthony, a forensic pathologist, performed the autopsy on 10 November 1983. He was not available to testify during the resentencing proceeding; therefore, his testimony from defendant's second trial was read to the jury. He stated that the victim was five feet, one inch tall and weighed one hundred thirty-one pounds. He found sixteen cut injuries on her head, neck, back, arms, and hands. Several of the wounds were over three-inches long. Two deep cuts went through the skull; the brain and bone in the head were exposed through these cuts. The victim's skull was fractured, which caused fragments of bone to be driven into the brain's surface. A three-inch cut on the left arm opened the elbow joint and entered the bones of the forearm. The cuts were caused by a large, heavy, sharp object, such as a cleaver, ax, or machete. The victim also suffered a blow of some magnitude to the liver.

Dr. Anthony stated that the victim died as a result of loss of blood and the blows to the head which penetrated the brain. He characterized the injuries to the victim's hands and arms as defense wounds, which usually occur when a person is trying to ward off blows. Dr. Anthony concluded that the vagina was penetrated by a foreign object shortly before the victim died.

An SBI agent testified that blood consistent with that of the victim was found on the hatchet and the sock in the barn, on the defendant's socks and one of his shoes, and on his jeans. Other agents testified that fibers on the hatchet matched those from the victim's pajamas, that hairs removed from the victim's fingernails could have originated from defendant, and that spermatozoa were found on slides made from a vaginal swab.

Defendant presented evidence tending to show that he had sniffed gasoline habitually since he was seven or eight years old. By the time he was fifteen, he would sniff gasoline six to eight hours at a time, three to four times a week. Two of defendant's five siblings and his mother testified about his problems with gasoline. They also stated that defendant's father was an alcoholic and often beat defendant for sniffing gasoline.

Defendant testified that he began sniffing gasoline when he was eight and also began drinking alcohol at that time. When he was nine he began using drugs such as Quaaludes, Valium and marijuana. He sniffed other inhalants, including paint thinner, plastic rubber, wood glue, airplane glue, and lighter fluid. He further testified that he does not regard sniffing inhalants as a problem and that he still uses them in Central Prison. He stated that he had had many jobs but none for more than two and one-half months.

Defendant inhaled gasoline five days a week for eight to twelve hours at a time in the year before the murder. He kept the gasoline in the barn. On the day before the murder, he bought a twelve-pack of beer and drank the contents of eleven and one-half cans and sniffed gasoline. He then went to sleep, awoke once, and then awoke again to find two policemen standing over him. He stated that he was not capable of committing the crimes against Mrs. Weaver. He suggested that the Sheriff's Department might have set him up by putting the victim's blood on his socks. He denied taking a hatchet from Mrs. Weaver's tool shed and killing her with it.

Dr. Anthony Colucci, an expert in pharmacology and toxicology, testified about the effects of gasoline inhalation and alcohol consumption. People who are exposed to gasoline, especially when they are young, begin to manifest mental retardation syndromes because the brain has been eaten away little by little. He stated that consuming eleven and a half beers would render most people physically unable to function. Dr. Colucci had never spoken with or examined defendant.

Dr. John Warren, an expert in psychopharmacology and psychology, testified that he examined defendant for the first time in August 1992 and again in September 1992. He interviewed family members and reviewed prior trial testimony, defendant's 1974 records from Dorothea Dix Hospital, and his school records. He administered an I.Q. test to defendant, which placed his I.Q. in the seventy to eighty range of scores. This score showed borderline mental retardation and cognitive problems. Dr. Warren Defendant and the State stipulated that defendant had been convicted of the first-degree rape of the victim. The jury found as an aggravating circumstance that the murder was committed while defendant was engaged in the commission of a rape, which was the only aggravating circumstance submitted. The trial court submitted four statutory and eleven non-statutory mitigating circumstances. None of the jurors found any of these to exist. The jury then recommended a sentence of death, and the court sentenced defendant in accord with that recommendation.

testified that based on the information he had from the records and the nine hours he spent with defendant, he believed that at the time of the murder defendant's capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct was impaired by substance abuse and by his low I.Q.

Defendant assigns as error the trial court's denial of his motion to disclose evidence of prior crimes or bad acts by defendant that the State intended to introduce pursuant to Rule 404(b). Defendant contends that disclosure by the State was necessary to insure basic fairness and reliability in the capital sentencing proceeding because defendant then would have had an adequate chance to rebut allegations of prior crimes or bad acts that were relevant either to aggravating or mitigating circumstances. During cross-examination, defendant repeatedly testified that he did not remember participating in certain crimes. He argues that his inability to refute the allegations was...

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