IN THE MATTER OF J.H.
Appeal by respondent from judgment entered 14 February 2005 by
Judge Edward A. Pone in Cumberland County District Court. Heard in
the Court of Appeals 10 April 2006.
Roy Cooper, Attorney General, by Jennifer M. Jones, Assistant
Attorney General, for the State.
Lisa Skinner Lefler, for Respondent-Appellant.
MARTIN, Chief Judge.
J.H., respondent-appellant, was adjudicated delinquent of
simple assault and communicating a threat by order entered
14 February 2005, nunc pro tunc to 9 February 2005. Both the
adjudication and disposition hearings were held on 9 February 2005.
On the same day, J.H. filed a written notice of appeal regarding
his adjudication of communicating a threat. Although the notice of
appeal document provided by the trial court to appellants does not
specify the appeal is from the disposition order, a juvenile only
has a right of appeal from a disposition order, see N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 7B-2602 (2005), and therefore we accept J.H.'s written notice of
appeal as an appeal of the disposition order. For the reasons
stated below, we affirm.
The juvenile, J.H., and his juvenile victim, C.F., had a
tempestuous dating relationship, with frequent yelling and arguing.
On 25 October 2004, J.H. and C.F. had an argument at school, and
J.H. told her: I'm going to cut your throat if you mess with any
other guys. At the time of the statement, J.H. had no weapon in
his possession and no immediate access to a weapon, and C.F. was
not restrained from leaving his presence.
After J.H. made this statement, C.F. left the scene and
continued her day at school. J.H. followed C.F. around and would
not leave her alone. C.F. spoke to a friend about J.H.'s
statement, who convinced her to tell the school principal about the
situation. C.F. informed the principal approximately one hour
after J.H. made the statement.
In the weeks following J.H.'s statement, C.F. and J.H. stopped
dating, but continued to have some contact via letters and email.
In several of these communications, C.F. professed her love for
J.H. and her regret at the situation. In one letter she wrote: I
wish that they could just see what I see. You're not a bad person
and you're not trying to hurt me.
At the delinquency hearing, C.F. testified regarding whether
she believed J.H. when he said he would cut her throat. According
to her testimony, C.F. initially believed J.H. when he told her he
would cut her throat because he swore on everything he would.
She later changed her mind, and did not believe the statement.
Months later, however, she changed her mind again and did believe
the statement. After the hearing, the trial court adjudicated J.H. as
delinquent on the charge of communicating a threat. J.H. appealed.
When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence in a juvenile
delinquency case, this Court must determine whether there was
substantial evidence to support the adjudication. In re Heil
N.C. App. 24, 29, 550 S.E.2d 815, 819 (2001). We consider the
evidence in the light most favorable to the State, and give it the
benefit of all reasonable inferences. Id.
For the offense of communicating a threat, the State must
prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
(1) [The juvenile] willfully threatens to physically
injure the person . . .;
(2) The threat is communicated to the other person,
orally, in writing, or by any other means;
(3) The threat is made in a manner and under
circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to
believe that the threat is likely to be carried out; and
(4) The person threatened believes that the threat will
be carried out.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-277.1 (2005). The conduct proscribed by
N.C.G.S. § 14-277.1 does not require that the threat be carried
out. State v. Roberson
, 37 N.C. App. 714, 715, 247 S.E.2d 8, 9
(1978). Furthermore, a conditional threat is covered by the
statute, and the accused does not have the right to impose
conditions on the victim. Id.
at 715_16, 247 S.E.2d at 9_10.
J.H. admits he orally made the threat to C.F., and therefore
the first two prongs of N.C.G.S. § 14-277.1 are not in dispute. On
appeal, J.H. argues a reasonable person would not have believed the
threat, and that C.F. did not actually believe the threat. The third prong of N.C.G.S. § 14-277.1 requires consideration
of whether a reasonable person would believe the threat, and as
such is an objective prong. The State provided evidence J.H. had
previously acted in a rage, which C.F. testified she had seen a
lot. Arguments between J.H. and C.F. would escalate and get out
Their relationship was a bad one where J.H. always
yelled at C.F.
In the conversation during which J.H. told C.F. he
would cut her throat if C.F. messed with other guys, J.H. made
the statement specifically because he was mad and thought C.F.
was messing with other guys.
After making the statement, J.H.
then followed C.F. around the school.
Viewing the evidence in the
light most favorable to the State, there was substantial evidence
a reasonable person would believe J.H. would likely carry out the
threat, given his past incidents of rage, the escalation of their
previous arguments, and his suspicion of C.F.
The fourth prong is a subjective prong, requiring the person
who was threatened to believe the threat would be carried out. At
the adjudication hearing, C.F. was asked whether she believed the
Q. What did he say?
A. He said, I'm going to cut your throat if you mess with
any other guys.
Q. And at the time did you believe he would do that?
Q. Why did you believe it at the time?
A. Because he said he would and he said he swore on
everything he would.
After her conversation with J.H., and after J.H. continued to
follow her around the school, C.F. was concerned enough to speak to
a friend about the situation. Following that conversation, C.F.
informed the school principal about J.H.'s statement.
J.H. points to evidence C.F. later changed her mind and did
not believe that J.H. would cut her throat. But C.F. changed her
mind weeks after J.H. made the statement. In any case, C.F. later
changed her mind yet again, and did believe the threat from J.H.
Pertinent here is that at the time
J.H. made the statement, C.F.
believed him, confided her concern in a friend, and informed the
principal. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the
State, substantial evidence shows C.F. believed the threat would be
carried out. Accordingly, the State provided substantial evidence
on all four prongs of N.C.G.S. § 14-277.1.
Finally, J.H. contends the trial court erred by failing to use
a standard of proof of beyond a reasonable doubt. No such
contention is included in the assignments of error in the record,
as required by Appellate Procedure Rule 10, and as such the
argument is not permitted on appeal. N.C.R. App. P. 10(c). As for
the merits of this contention, the trial court stated at the
adjudication hearing, The standard in this court is beyond a
reasonable doubt, and the adjudication order itself states the
court finds said allegation has been proven beyond a reasonable
doubt. Consequently, this argument is without merit.
Judges HUDSON and BRYANT concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
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