State v. Vick, 7A94

Citation461 S.E.2d 655, 341 N.C. 569
Case DateSeptember 08, 1995
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of North Carolina

Page 655

461 S.E.2d 655
341 N.C. 569
STATE of North Carolina
Edward Earl VICK.
No. 7A94.
Supreme Court of North Carolina.
Sept. 8, 1995.

Michael F. Easley, Attorney General by Thomas F. Hicks, Special Deputy Attorney General, for the State.

Jeffrey B. Foster, Greenville, for defendant-appellant.

[341 N.C. 573] FRYE, Justice.

In a capital trial, Edward Earl Vick, defendant, was convicted by a jury on two counts of first-degree murder. Following a capital sentencing proceeding conducted pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 15A-2000, the jury recommended and the trial court imposed two life sentences, to be served consecutively.

Defendant appeals to this Court making six assignments of error. We reject these assignments and uphold defendant's convictions and sentences.

The State's evidence at trial tended to show the following facts and circumstances: On 24 June 1987, Vanessa Craddock and her seven-year-old son, Rasean Rouse, were shot and killed at their home at 916 Fifth Street in Goldsboro, North Carolina. At the time of the murders, Desiree Davis lived next door in Apartment 918 with her children Demetrick, age eleven; Chris, age seven; and Ronique, age four. The Davis' apartment and Vanessa Craddock's apartment shared a common wall between the living rooms and kitchens of both residences.

On the day that Vanessa and Rasean were killed, Chris and Rasean played in the backyard of their apartments after they had eaten dinner. Shortly before dark, Vanessa called out to Rasean and told him that he had to come in to take a bath. Rasean went into his apartment, while Chris stayed outside. A few minutes later, Rasean came to the back door of his apartment. Chris approached Rasean, looked into the apartment, and saw defendant slap Vanessa three or four times. Rasean told Chris that defendant was slapping his mother.

Chris went next door to the Davis apartment, entered the back door, and began to get some water from the kitchen faucet. As he was running the water, Chris heard a noise coming from Vanessa's apartment that sounded like "cabinets slamming." He then went into the living room of the Davis apartment.

As it began to turn dark, Demetrick Davis went into his apartment. Rasean was already in his apartment. Demetrick lay down on the couch in his living room and began to watch television. Desiree was lying on a couch placed against the wall opposite him. Through his front window, Demetrick saw the headlights of an approaching automobile that pulled between the Davis apartment and Vanessa's apartment. Within seconds, an automobile door slammed. A few minutes later, Demetrick heard about three gunshots coming from [341 N.C. 574] Vanessa's apartment. His mother commented that the shots sounded like cabinet doors slamming. Then they heard Rasean begin crying and say, "no, Mommie, no, no, Mommie, no!" Thereafter, two more shots rang out. The front door to Vanessa's apartment slammed and, approximately fifteen to twenty seconds later, Demetrick heard an automobile squealing tires as it sped away.

Approximately two minutes after the automobile pulled away from the parking lot, Wanda Broadhurst knocked on Desiree Davis' apartment door and everyone ran outside. Demetrick ran toward another apartment and found Rasean lying on a neighbor's walkway in the fetal position. Rasean was

Page 658

surrounded by blood, and a trail of blood led from Rasean's body to his apartment. Everyone then ran to John Sykes' apartment where Desiree Davis arrived moments later and announced that Vanessa Craddock was dead.

At approximately 9:00 p.m., Lillie Brown Artis was sitting in her automobile in the parking lot of the apartments on Fifth Street. Ms. Artis noticed a small blue automobile parked beside Vanessa's automobile in front of Apartment 916. She later identified the automobile as similar to the one operated by defendant. Suddenly, the blue automobile sped from the apartment, through the parking lot and down Fifth Street. Three to five minutes later, Ms. Artis heard Mrs. Sykes yelling that there was a little boy lying on a neighbor's porch. Someone called the rescue squad, and shortly thereafter police officers and rescue personnel arrived.

Upon arriving at the scene, police officers found the body of Rasean on the porch outside of Apartment 908. Rasean was clad only in white undershorts and covered with fresh blood. He had no vital signs. The body of Vanessa was discovered on the floor in the back bedroom of her apartment. Blood was coming from her head and she showed no vital signs.

In the living room of the apartment, there was a large pool of blood. There was also a trail of blood leading into the kitchen. The blood evidence suggested that Rasean had been shot in the kitchen, then walked into the living room where he hit the wall. He then fell onto the floor where the large pool of blood formed. After a few seconds, he got back up and headed out the front door. He walked about one hundred yards and collapsed on a neighbor's front porch.

Dr. John Butts, Chief Medical Examiner for the State of North Carolina, performed autopsies on Vanessa and Rasean. He observed [341 N.C. 575] four gunshot wounds to Vanessa's head and one defensive gunshot wound to her left hand. The nature of the wound to her hand and the wound to the left side of her head suggested that the gun was inches away from her body when these shots were fired. Vanessa died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.

Rasean had a gunshot wound to the left side of his head. The nature of this wound suggests that it was made with the gun inches from his head. After the bullet entered his temple, it passed through his head and struck his carotid artery. The hemorrhaging from this wound caused his death.

On the night of the murders, defendant, Collette Barnes, and their child, Christopher, arrived at Joyce Lofton's house in Barnes' blue Volkswagen automobile. Testimony at trial showed that by the shortest route one can drive from Vanessa's house to Lofton's house in less than three minutes. Defendant stated that they had been at "Van's" house and wanted to play cards but that they did not have a foursome. At defendant's request, Lofton and Barnes went to the grocery store to buy beer while defendant showered. Lofton and Barnes returned, and the three adults played cards until about eleven or eleven-thirty that night.

When defendant was arrested in February 1992, he called Ms. Lofton from the Wayne County jail and told her that she was his alibi. He also told her that he had arrived at her house before nine o'clock on the night Vanessa was murdered. He instructed her to call his lawyer.

Defendant presented no evidence at trial.

For his first assignment of error, defendant argues that his motion requesting that the trial judge recuse himself from defendant's trial was improperly denied. He asserts that Judge Duke's acceptance of the guilty verdict in State v. Collette Barnes (91CRS16388)--the trial of defendant's codefendant, as well as a finding made by Judge Duke during the sentencing hearing of the Barnes case, created an adequate showing that Judge Duke should have recused himself. We disagree.

Collette Barnes was tried prior to defendant's trial on two counts of murder and two counts of accessory after the fact of murder. Judge Duke presided over that trial. The jury found Barnes guilty of two counts of accessory after the fact. At Barnes' trial, her attorneys offered evidence indicating

Page 659

that she was under the domination of defendant and that she committed these acts because of duress and coercion caused by defendant. In the sentencing phase, Judge Duke [341 N.C. 576] found coercion as a mitigating factor but found that the aggravating factors outweighed the mitigating factors. Accordingly, Judge Duke sentenced Barnes to ten years' imprisonment on each count, the maximum sentence possible for each offense.

At the start of defendant's trial, defendant moved that Judge Duke recuse himself. Judge Duke heard the arguments and ordered that Judge Wright hear the motion for recusal. A hearing was held before Judge Wright on 7 July 1993 and defendant's motion for recusal was denied. In making this decision, Judge Wright distinguished the instant case from State v. Fie, 320 N.C. 626, 359 S.E.2d 774 (1987). Defendant contends that the principles articulated by this Court in Fie require that Judge Duke should have been recused. We disagree.

In Fie, this Court found that Judge Burroughs should have recused himself. Judge Burroughs presided over the trial of Donna Rowe. After the case, he wrote a letter to the district attorney suggesting that criminal charges be brought against Floyd Fie and Steve Harverson. The district attorney brought the charges, and Judge Burroughs was assigned both cases. Before trial, both defendants filed motions for recusal of Judge Burroughs, arguing that Judge Burroughs' letter to the district attorney showed the judge's disbelief in defense witnesses in the Rowe case--the same witnesses that would testify in the Fie and Harverson cases. The motion was denied and a divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed. This Court reversed the Court of Appeals, stating that, while a judge need not be disqualified from a hearing merely because he presided over the trial of a codefendant, a judge should recuse himself if the defendant presents substantial evidence that the trial judge has such "a personal bias, prejudice or interest that he is unable to rule impartially." Id. at 627, 359 S.E.2d at 775. We added that "a party has a right to be tried before a judge whose impartiality cannot reasonably be questioned." Id. (citing N.C.Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3(c)(1) (1973)).

Defendant here has not presented substantial evidence of partiality or evidence that there was an appearance of partiality on the part of Judge Duke. This case is not similar to Fie. Unlike Judge Burroughs, Judge Duke was not the impetus behind the filing of...

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