Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 7 November 2003 by
Judge James C. Spencer, Jr. in Alamance County Superior Court.
Heard in the Court of Appeals 6 June 2005.
Roy Cooper, Attorney General, by Anne M. Middleton, Assistant
Attorney General, for the State.
Staples Hughes, Appellate Defender, by Benjamin Dowling-
Sendor, Assistant Appellate Defender, for defendant.
MARTIN, Chief Judge.
Defendant was charged with three counts of first-degree sexual
offense, three counts of taking indecent liberties with a child,
and three counts of crimes against nature. Upon motion by
defendant at the close of the State's evidence, the trial court
dismissed the three counts of crimes against nature and one count
of first-degree sexual offense alleged to have occurred on or about
14 June 2002. The jury found defendant guilty of the five
remaining charges. The trial court imposed two consecutive
sentences of 384 to 470 months imprisonment.
The State presented evidence at trial which tended to show the
following: defendant lived with his girlfriend, S.E., in AlamanceCounty near Burlington, North Carolina. M.E., S.E.'s
eight-year-old daughter, lived with her father. After not seeing
her mother for over six months, M.E. went to visit her at her home
with defendant several times in the spring and early summer of
2002. The first few weekends that M.E. visited, she testified that
no bad touching occurred. On the fourth weekend she visited,
M.E. testified that she walked in on her mother and defendant
having sex. Although they saw M.E. enter the room, they did not
stop having intercourse or cover their bodies. When they stopped,
S.E. asked M.E. if she wanted to do it too. M.E. said no, and then
defendant performed oral sex on S.E. in front of M.E. They again
asked if M.E. wanted to participate, and this time M.E. agreed.
Defendant began to perform oral sex on M.E., but he stopped when
M.E. said she did not like it. S.E.'s testimony corroborated
M.E.'s description of these events. M.E. did not tell her father
or anyone else about what happened that weekend.
Beginning May 31, the last day of school, M.E. went to stay
with her mother and defendant for two weeks. At trial, M.E. and
S.E. testified to numerous sexual acts that occurred between
defendant and M.E. during this two-week visit. M.E. testified
that approximately the day after she arrived, defendant put some
slick stuff on his penis, and while she lay on her stomach, he
put his penis between her legs above her knees. He moved his body
up and down for about five minutes. He did not put his penis in
her vagina. M.E. testified that this happened two or three timesduring her two-week visit. M.E. also testified that later the same
night, defendant licked her breasts.
S.E. testified that on the first or second day of the visit,
she talked M.E. into letting defendant perform oral sex on her. At
the time, S.E., M.E., defendant, and defendant's six-year-old son,
J.D.B., were all in the bedroom naked. After defendant performed
oral sex on M.E., he asked J.D.B. if he wanted to try it.
According to S.E.'s testimony, J.D.B. put his mouth on M.E.'s
S.E. further testified that defendant's ten-year-old niece,
J.B., came to visit during the middle weekend of M.E.'s two-week
visit. That Saturday night, she and M.E. convinced J.B., who was
hesitant to participate, to take her clothes off along with them.
They went into the bedroom with defendant, and S.E., M.E., and J.B.
lay down on the bed with S.E. in the middle. Defendant performed
oral sex on all three of them. M.E.'s testimony corroborated this
event, but she could not remember exactly when it took place.
S.E. described an act, which she called slick-legging, that
defendant had done to M.E. about three times during the two-week
visit. This was the same act M.E. described where defendant, using
a lubrication, put his penis between M.E.'s legs while she lay on
her stomach. S.E. said one of the times defendant performed this
act on M.E. was on the Friday of the last week of the two-week
visit, which was 14 June 2002. M.E. went back to her father's
house the next day. S.E. testified as to other sexual acts which occurred during
M.E.'s two-week visit, including: M.E. took a shower with
defendant two or three times; defendant asked M.E. to put his penis
in her mouth, and M.E. put her mouth on the side of his penis
because she was afraid she would choke; they watched pornographic
movies; and they all walked around the house naked.
The day after M.E. went home, she told her father what had
happened. Her father called the sheriff, and the next morning, he
took her to Dr. Louis Allen Dean, a family practitioner in
Thomasville, North Carolina. Dr. Dean testified that M.E. told him
she had slept with her mother and her mother's boyfriend naked on
several occasions. At least once, her mother's boyfriend had
licked her privates and coerced her into performing oral sex on
Defendant was originally arrested on an unrelated charge, and
he and S.E. were both subsequently charged in this case.
Defendant's parents posted S.E.'s $50,000 bond, mortgaging their
property to do so. According to S.E., they told her to say she had
made everything up and helped her come up with details of an
alternate story. They threatened to go off her bond and let her
return to jail if she did not comply. S.E. met with an attorney
defendant's parents hired for her and told him she had made up the
allegations to get custody of her baby with which she was six
months pregnant and M.E. The attorney had her write and sign an
affidavit to this effect, but S.E. testified that the affidavit was
false and was a product of defendant's parents' coercion. S.E.ultimately entered into a plea agreement with the State in which
she agreed to plead guilty to one count of indecent liberties with
a child, register as a sexual offender for ten years, and testify
At trial, S.E.'s son from a previous marriage, D.C., testified
over defendant's objection that S.E. and defendant engaged in
fellatio in front of him and defendant's nephew, T.B., once when
the two boys were visiting defendant's home. According to D.C.,
defendant wore a ring with metal studs around his penis. This
conduct did not take place while M.E. was visiting but on a
At the close of the State's evidence, defendant moved to
dismiss all of the charges against him. The trial court allowed
his motion with respect to the three counts of crimes against
nature and the count of first-degree sexual offense occurring on or
about 14 June 2002. Five charges remained after the motion was
allowed, including three charges of indecent liberties occurring on
or about 31 May, 8 June, and 14 June 2002, and two charges of
first-degree sexual offense occurring on or about 31 May and 8 June
Defendant presented evidence which tended to show the
following: defendant's nephew, T.B., testified that while he was
visiting S.E. and defendant when D.C. was also visiting, he never
saw defendant's penis, a ring with metal spikes, or any sexual
activity. J.B. testified that no one had ever touched her private
parts while she was visiting defendant, and that she had never seenanyone touch M.E.'s private parts. She also testified that M.E.
told her that M.E., S.E., and the new baby were going to move into
defendant's house because defendant was going to jail.
J.B.'s sister, N.B., testified that S.E. told her she had set
defendant up in order to move into defendant's house with M.E. and
the baby. She said S.E. told her she regretted making everything
up, and several times N.B. heard S.E. on the phone with defendant
saying she loved him, wanted to marry him, and would recant the
allegations. N.B. also testified that J.B. told her nothing
inappropriate had happened between her and defendant. J.B.'s
mother testified that J.B., upon numerous inquiries, maintained
that nothing inappropriate had ever happened to her while visiting
Octavis White, the attorney hired by defendant's parents to
represent S.E., and his law partner, George Hunt, testified that
S.E. told them she made up false allegations against defendant to
get custody of M.E. and her unborn child. David Harris, another
attorney, also testified S.E. told him she made up the allegations.
Mr. Harris said S.E. told him she showed pornographic movies and
discussed sexual acts with M.E. so that M.E. could describe them to
Defendant's neighbor, Jean Wakefield, testified that S.E. also
told her she had M.E. watch pornographic movies in order to accuse
defendant of sexual abuse. Mrs. Wakefield said that when she would
stop by defendant's home unannounced, everyone there was dressed
normally. Defendant's mother also testified that S.E. told her theallegations were false. She denied conditioning S.E.'s bond on
S.E. recanting the allegations.
The jury found defendant guilty of three counts of taking
indecent liberties with a child occurring on or about 31 May, 8
June, and 14 June 2002, and two counts of first-degree sexual
offense occurring on or about 31 May and 8 June 2002. The trial
court consolidated the five convictions into two judgments, found
that defendant had a prior felony conviction record of VI, and
imposed two consecutive sentences of 384 to 470 months
imprisonment. Defendant appeals.
Defendant's sole argument on appeal is that the trial court's
instructions to the jury were fatally ambiguous and thereby
violated defendant's right to a unanimous jury under the North
Carolina Constitution. Under the North Carolina Constitution,
[n]o person shall be convicted of any crime but by the unanimous
verdict of a jury in open court. N.C. Const. art. 1, § 24; N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 15A-1237(b) (2003). Although defendant did not object
to the jury instructions on the grounds of unanimity at trial,
[v]iolations of constitutional rights, such as the right to a
unanimous verdict . . . are not waived by the failure to object at
trial and may be raised for the first time on appeal. State v.
, 161 N.C. App. 583, 592, 589 S.E.2d 402, 409 (2003).
Defendant argues that although the jury only considered five
charges of sexual abuse, the evidence presented showed many moreincidents of abuse during M.E.'s two-week visit at defendant's
home. The jury, defendant contends, could have considered any
number of these additional incidents in reaching its verdict.
Specifically, the bills of information by which defendant was
charged alleged that one count of indecent liberties and one count
of first-degree sexual offense occurred on or about 31 May 2002,
one count of indecent liberties and one count of first-degree
sexual offense occurred on or about 8 June 2002, and one count of
indecent liberties occurred on or about 14 June 2002.
We begin by addressing the charges of first-degree sexual
offense. First-degree sexual offense is defined as a sexual act:
(1) [w]ith a victim who is a child under the age of 13 years and
the defendant is at least 12 years old and is at least four years
older than the victim. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.4(a)(1) (2003).
A sexual act includes cunnilingus . . . [and] the penetration,
however slight, by any object into the genital or anal opening of
another person's body. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.1(4) (2003).
Because there is no evidence of any act of vaginal penetration
of M.E., the two charges of first-degree sexual offense are based
on the incidents in which defendant allegedly performed cunnilingus
on M.E. The evidence at trial gave rise to only two possible
incidents of cunnilingus. Statements made by S.E. and M.E. which
may have described additional incidents of cunnilingus were
admitted only for corroborative, rather than substantive, purposes.
The first incident described at trial occurred the first or
second day of M.E.'s two-week visit. The evidence indicated thatM.E. arrived for her two-week visit sometime between 30 May and 1
June 2002. S.E. testified that she convinced M.E. to let defendant
perform oral sex on her. At the time, S.E., M.E., defendant, and
defendant's son J.D.B. were all in the bed together naked. This
testimony corresponds with the bill of information and the verdict
sheet submitted to the jury, which each fix the date of the offense
as on or about 31 May 2002.
The second incident of cunnilingus described at trial took
place during the middle weekend of M.E.'s visit when defendant's
niece J.B. was also visiting. S.E. testified that Saturday night,
she, M.E., and J.B. took off their clothes and lay down on the bed
while defendant performed oral sex on all of them. M.E. also
described this event, although she could not say when it occurred.
The date of the middle Saturday of M.E.'s visit was 8 June 2002.
The bill of information alleges that this offense took place on or
about 8 June 2002, and the verdict sheet clearly directs the jury
to consider defendant's guilt or innocence of an offense occurring
on that date.
We have previously held that when a question of jury unanimity
is raised, we must examine the verdict, the charge, the jury
instructions, and the evidence to determine whether any ambiguity
as to unanimity has been removed. State v. Petty
, 132 N.C. App.
453, 461-62, 512 S.E.2d 428, 434, disc. review denied
, 350 N.C.
598, 537 S.E.2d 490 (1999). Having examined the verdict, the
charge, and the evidence, we now turn to the trial court's jury
instructions on first-degree sexual offense, to which defendantassigns error. The trial court instructed the jury twice on the
crime of first-degree sexual offense, once for Case No. 02 CRS
55606, in which the offenses were alleged to have occurred on or
about 31 May 2002, and once for Case No. 02 CRS 55580, in which the
offenses were alleged to have occurred on or about 8 June 2002. In
both instructions, the trial court limited the jury's consideration
of first-degree sexual offense to the act of cunnilingus, stating
that a sexual act here means cunnilingus, which is any touching,
however slight, by the lips or the tongue of one person to any part
of the female sex organ of another.
This Court has held that the trial court may protect the
defendant's right to a unanimous verdict by instructing the jury
that they must be unanimous as to the particular criminal offense
that the defendant committed. State v. Lawrence
, 165 N.C. App.
548, 559, 599 S.E.2d 87, 95, temp. stay allowed
, 359 N.C. 73, 603
S.E.2d 885 (2004), disc. review allowed
, 359 N.C. 413, 612 S.E.2d
634 (2005) (Lawrence I
). Here, the trial court instructed the jury
that it must agree unanimously on the particular offense of
cunnilingus. The trial court's instructions limited the jury's
consideration of the first-degree sexual offenses both to the
approximate dates on which they were alleged to have occurred and
to the specific act of cunnilingus. These dates and acts
correspond with the evidence presented at trial. Defendant's
contention that the trial court's jury instructions did not
clearly specify the alleged offenses the jury was to consider is
not supported by the record. We also reject defendant's contention that there was evidence
presented of a greater number of separate criminal offenses than
the defendant is charged with. See Lawrence I
, 165 N.C. App. at
558, 599 S.E.2d at 95.
There is no risk of a lack of unanimity
where the defendant was charged with and convicted of the same
number of offenses, and the evidence supported that number of
offenses. State v. Wiggins
, 161 N.C. App. 583, 593, 589 S.E.2d
402, 409 (2003). In the present case, defendant was charged with
two discrete first-degree sexual offenses, there was evidence of
each offense, and defendant was convicted of each. Therefore,
defendant's argument that he was denied the right to unanimous
verdicts with respect to the charges of first-degree sexual offense
We now turn to the charges of indecent liberties. N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 14-202.1 states:
(a) A person is guilty of taking indecent
liberties with children if, being 16 years of
age or more and at least five years older than
the child in question, he either:
(1) Willfully takes or attempts to take
any immoral, improper, or indecent liberties
with any child of either sex under the age of
16 years for the purpose of arousing or
gratifying sexual desire; or
(2) Willfully commits or attempts to
commit any lewd or lascivious act upon or with
the body or any part or member of the body of
any child of either sex under the age of 16
(b) Taking indecent liberties with children is
punishable as a Class F felony.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202.1 (2003). We will again examine the
verdict, the charge, the jury instructions, and the evidence to
determine whether, on the charges of indecent liberties, any
ambiguity as to unanimity has been removed. Petty
, 132 N.C. App.
at 461-62, 512 S.E.2d at 434.
Defendant was charged with three counts of indecent liberties.
The charge, verdict sheets, and jury instructions limited the
jury's consideration of indecent liberties to on or about
specific dates. Case No. 02 CRS 55606 is limited to on or about
31 May 2002; Case No. 02 CRS 55580 is limited to on or about 8
June 2002; and Case No. 02 CRS 55579 is limited to on or about 14
First we address Case No. 02 CRS 55606, which alleges first-
degree sexual offense and indecent liberties took place on or
about 31 May 2002. M.E. testified at trial that about the second
day of her visit, defendant engaged in an act of slick-legging
with her, and later that same night licked her breasts. S.E.
testified that the first or second day of M.E.'s visit, defendant
performed cunnilingus on M.E. Because indecent liberties does not
merge with and is not a lesser included offense of first-degree
sexual offense, the evidence presented in this case on cunnilingus
may also support a conviction for indecent liberties. State v.
, __ N.C. App. __, 612 S.E.2d 678, temp. stay allowed
N.C. __, __ S.E.2d __,(June 2, 2005)(No. 293A05) (Lawrence II
case unrelated to Lawrence I
). Therefore, any of these three acts
could support a conviction of indecent liberties under N.C. Gen.Stat. § 14-202.1, and defendant correctly alleges that there was
evidence presented of a greater number of separate criminal
offenses than the defendant is charged with. Lawrence I
, 165 N.C.
App. at 558, 599 S.E.2d at 95.
However, we have already determined that the jury unanimously
found defendant committed the act of cunnilingus on or near 31 May
2002. This unanimous finding is also sufficient to support the
conviction of indecent liberties under Case No. 02 CRS 55606.
Using the same underlying act to support convictions for both
first-degree sexual offense and indecent liberties does not violate
defendant's constitutional protection against double jeopardy.
State v. Manley
, 95 N.C. App. 213, 217, 381 S.E.2d 900, 902, disc.
, 325 N.C. 712, 388 S.E.2d 467 (1989). Defendant's
argument with respect to Case No. 02 CRS 55606 is overruled.
Case No. 02 CRS 55580 alleges a first-degree sexual offense
and a charge of indecent liberties on or about 8 June 2002, the
middle Saturday of M.E.'s visit. The only sexual incident
associated with that particular date was when defendant performed
cunnilingus on M.E., J.B., and S.E. on the bed. Again, the
conviction in this case on first-degree sexual offense by
cunnilingus indicates the jury unanimously found this incident
occurred. Because the same act of cunnilingus is sufficient to
support a conviction of indecent liberties in addition to first-
degree sexual offense, Manley
, 95 N.C. App. at 217, 381 S.E.2d at
902, and because no other evidence specifically relates to 8 June2002, we believe the jury was unanimous in its finding of indecent
liberties in Case No. 02 CRS 55580.
Finally, in Case No. 02 CRS 55579, the sole count for the jury
to consider was indecent liberties alleged to have occurred on or
about 14 June 2002, the last Friday of M.E.'s visit. The only
evidence at trial specifically relating to that date was S.E.'s
description of a slick-legging incident. Because the trial
court, through the verdict sheets and its instruction, specifically
limited the jury's consideration of this charge to on or near 14
June 2002, the end of M.E.'s stay, we conclude the jury was also
unanimous as to the slick-legging incident that occurred on or
about the last Friday of M.E's visit.
The present case
is distinguishable from other cases in which
error has been found. In State v. Holden
160 N.C. App. 503, 586
S.E.2d 513 (2003), aff'd without precedential value
, 359 N.C. 60,
602 S.E.2d 360 (2004),
defendant was charged with ten counts of
statutory rape. The evidence supported five incidents of rape, and
the jury convicted defendant of two counts. The trial court made
no attempt to distinguish among the ten different counts submitted
to the jury. The indictments were simply short form indictments
. . . alleg[ing] defendant committed first degree statutory rape
occurring within a time period between 1 November 1999 and 12 May
2000, without specifying any specific date for any offense. Id.
at 507, 586 S.E.2d at 516. It was impossible to determine which
two incidents of rape the jury actually agreed took place.
Similarly, in Lawrence I
and Lawrence II
, the trial court made noattempt to separate the individual criminal offenses, or guide the
jury to identify a given verdict sheet with a corresponding
instance of alleged sexual abuse. Lawrence I
at 563, 599 S.E.2d
at 98; see also Lawrence II
(stating that unanimity is
jeopardized if the jury receives no guidance from the trial court
or indication from the State as to which offenses are to be
considered for which verdict sheets).
In the present case, there were numerous acts by defendant in
addition to cunnilingus and slick-legging which could have
supported a conviction on indecent liberties, including licking
M.E.'s breasts, showering with M.E., and having M.E. touch his
penis with her mouth.
Had the trial court submitted this case to
the jury for consideration without narrowing the time frame any
further than the two-week visit, we would agree that it would be
impossible to determine which sexual incidents supported the jury's
finding on any given charge of indecent liberties. However, the
trial court carefully associated each charge and jury instruction
with a specific case number, date, and verdict sheet. The trial
court gave three separate instructions on indecent liberties,
distinguishing them by date and case number. Here, as in State v.
, 161 N.C. App. 583, 593, 589 S.E.2d 402, 409 (2003),
defendant was charged with and convicted of the same number of
offenses, and this Court found no lack of jury unanimity in that
With respect to the trial court's instructions to the jury and
the question of jury unanimity, we find no error. However, weremand for correction of a clerical error in the judgments, which
incorrectly cite N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.7A as the statute under
which defendant was convicted of first-degree sexual offense.
Because M.E. was under 13 years of age, the judgment sheets should
reflect N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.4 as the statute violated by
defendant. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-27.4(a)(1) (2003).
No Error in the trial.
02 CRS 55580 Remanded for correction of clerical error.
02 CRS 55606 Remanded for correction of clerical error.
Judges WYNN and TIMMONS-GOODSON concur.
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