Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 24 May 2005 by Judge
Michael E. Helms in Forsyth County Superior Court. Heard in the
Court of Appeals 19 June 2006.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General
David N. Kirkman, for the State.
Daniel F. Read for defendant appellant.
Defendant appeals from judgment entered after a jury verdict
of guilty of common law robbery charges. Upon his admission to
habitual felon status, the trial court sentenced him to a
presumptive prison term of 168 to 211 months. We find no error.
The State's evidence tended to show the following: On the
afternoon of 2 February 2004, defendant and Lee Smith entered a
Best Buy store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They walked into
the store's electronics section, where defendant picked up a Sony
PlayStation 2 console and two or three video games before returning
to the check-out area at the front of the store. Defendant ran out
of the store without paying for the merchandise, followed by Smith. The store's loss prevention officer, Van Getter, chased after the
men as they ran toward Smith's silver Mitsubishi Gallant, which was
parked in the fire lane in front of the store. Defendant placed
the merchandise inside Smith's car and sat down in the front
passenger seat. Smith reached into the car for a gun, which he
pointed at Getter from a distance of fifteen feet while saying,
[S]top [m.f.]. Feeling threatened by the gun, Getter stopped.
Smith and defendant then drove out of the parking lot and left.
They were stopped for speeding in Smith's Gallant the next day, 3
February 2004, by North Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper B.D.
Stalvey. Defendant was driving the car, and Smith was seated
beside him. In the backseat of the car, Stalvey found [a] Sony
Playstation 2 box which was sealed and a video game. He also
found a Crossman BB gun underneath the passenger seat.
Smith testified that he offered defendant a ride while driving
his car around High Point, North Carolina, on 2 February 2004. As
the two men talked in Smith's car, they just both agreed that
[they] were kind of in need of money at the time. Deciding they
could obtain money by selling a PlayStation or something like
that[,] Smith and defendant drove to a Best Buy in Winston-Salem.
Smith had a BB gun in the car and showed it to defendant,
explaining how it looked real but it wasn't real and it didn't
work or anything. After parking his car at the curb next to the
front of the store so that they could get out quicker[,] Smith
walked with defendant to the store's electronics department.
Defendant carried the PlayStation and the games to the front of thestore and walked out without paying for them. A store employee
who was chasing defendant exited the store ahead of Smith. As the
employee tried to wrest the merchandise away from defendant, Smith
got the BB gun out of the car and . . . pointed it at the guy and
told him to back away from [defendant]. When the employee backed
away, Smith and defendant got in the car and left for High Point.
They were stopped by a state trooper the next day while defendant
was driving Smith's car. The PlayStation, a video game, and
Smith's BB gun were still in the vehicle. Smith gave a written
statement to a Winston-Salem police officer on 6 February 2004,
detailing the robbery.
Defendant offered no evidence. The trial court denied
defendant's request for a jury instruction on misdemeanor larceny
as a lesser included offense of common law robbery. Defendant
declined the court's offer for an instruction on larceny from the
person. Defendant now appeals.
Defendant first contends on appeal that the trial court erred
in refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of
misdemeanor larceny. Defendant now claims that the evidence
created issues of fact for the jury as to whether he (1) intended
to act in concert with Smith, and (2) reasonably could have
foreseen Smith's use of force to accomplish the planned theft.
Because the jury could have resolved these factual questions in his
favor, defendant contends the evidence supported a misdemeanorlarceny instruction. We disagree.
The trial court must instruct the jury on any lesser included
offense which is supported by affirmative evidence introduced at
trial. State v. Kyle
, 333 N.C. 687, 703, 430 S.E.2d 412, 421
(1993). The sole factor determining the judge's obligation to
give such an instruction is the presence, or absence, of any
evidence in the record which might convince a rational trier of
fact to convict the defendant of a less grievous offense. State
, 304 N.C. 349, 351, 283 S.E.2d 502, 503 (1981). However,
the mere possibility that the jury might accept some, but not all,
of the State's proffer is insufficient to warrant an instruction on
a lesser offense, absent affirmative evidence which tends to negate
an element of the greater offense. State v. Franks
, 74 N.C. App.
661, 662, 329 S.E.2d 717, 718, disc. review denied
, 314 N.C. 333,
333 S.E.2d 493 (1985).
Common law robbery is defined as 'the felonious,
non-consensual taking of money or personal property from the person
or presence of another by means of violence or fear.' State v.
, 339 N.C. 114, 164, 451 S.E.2d 826, 854 (1994) (quoting State
, 305 N.C. 691, 700, 292 S.E.2d 264, 270, cert. denied
U.S. 1056, 74 L. Ed. 2d 622 (1982)), cert. denied
, 515 U.S. 1169,
132 L. Ed. 2d 873 (1995). Misdemeanor larceny is a lesser included
offense of common law robbery. See State v. White
, 142 N.C. App.
201, 204, 542 S.E.2d 265, 267 (2001). The distinction between the
greater and lesser offenses is that robbery requires the taking to
be accomplished by means of violence or fear, while misdemeanorlarceny does not. Id.
The taking of merchandise from a store over the resistance of
a store employee or security officer is a taking from the person
or presence of another as contemplated by the term robbery. See
State v. Gaither
, 161 N.C. App. 96, 100, 587 S.E.2d 505, 508
(2003), disc. review denied
, 358 N.C. 157, 593 S.E.2d 83 (2004);
State v. Barnes
, 125 N.C. App. 75, 79, 479 S.E.2d 236, 238, aff'd
, 347 N.C. 350, 492 S.E.2d 355 (1997). Here, the
evidence showed that Getter broke off his pursuit of defendant only
when threatened by Smith with a gun. Taken together, the acts of
defendant and Smith thus constituted a taking from the presence of
another by fear, and thus comprised all the elements of a common
law robbery. See Barnes
125 N.C. App. at 79, 479 S.E.2d at 238.
Because defendant did not make a show of force toward Getter, the
issue before this Court is whether the evidence adduced at trial
would have allowed a jury to find defendant not criminally liable
for Smith's actions.
The trial court instructed the jury, without objection, that
it could find defendant guilty upon a finding that he acted in
concert with Smith to commit the robbery. Under the doctrine of
concerted action, if 'two persons join in a purpose to commit a
crime, each of them, if actually or constructively present, is not
only guilty as a principal if the other commits that particular
crime, but he is also guilty of any other crime committed by the
other in pursuance of the common purpose . . . or as a natural or
probable consequence thereof.' State v. Barnes
, 345 N.C. 184,233, 481 S.E.2d 44, 71 (1997) (citations omitted). A defendant
need not intend or subjectively foresee the specific criminal acts
committed by his accomplice in furtherance of their joint
enterprise. [R]ather it is sufficient if the crime charged is a
natural occurrence of, or flows from a common criminal purpose.
State v. Herring
, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___, 626 S.E.2d 742, ___
We find no evidence that would have allowed a rational juror
to find defendant guilty of the lesser offense of misdemeanor
larceny, rather than common robbery. No witness' account of the
incident tended to show that defendant acted alone, rather than in
concert with Smith, in stealing the PlayStation and video games.
Smith testified that, prior to their arrival at the Best Buy, he
and defendant discussed obtaining a PlayStation so that they could
sell it for money. In addition to threatening Getter with a gun to
thwart his pursuit of defendant, Smith drove defendant to the store
in Smith's car, parked in the fire lane next to the store's
entrance, accompanied defendant to the electronics section, and
served as his getaway driver. Rather than fleeing on foot with the
stolen goods, defendant placed them in Smith's car and made his
escape therein. Moreover, we find that the threatened use of non-
deadly force in order to elude capture by a retail store's security
officer was a natural occurrence directly flowing from defendant
and Smith's joint criminal purpose of stealing merchandise from a
store. Accordingly, Smith's act of brandishing the BB gun at
Getter was attributable to defendant as the product of theirconcerted action. See, e.g., State v. Bellamy
, ___ N.C. App. ___,
___, 617 S.E.2d 81, 94 (2005). Finally, there was no evidence that
the theft was accomplished without threatening Getter with the gun.
Cf. State v. McCullers
, 77 N.C. App. 433, 435, 335 S.E.2d 348, 349
(1985) (All of the evidence tends to show that the taking of the
money was 'occasioned by the violent acts of the defendant,' namely
striking the victim over the head with a soft drink bottle.).
Defendant next contends that his sentence is so
disproportionate to his crime as to violate the constitutional
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. While we note
defendant did not raise his constitutional claim in the trial
court, see State v. Benson
, 323 N.C. 318, 322, 372 S.E.2d 517, 519
(1988), we also find that it is without merit.
Our Supreme Court has found that as long as the judge
sentences within the limits established by the legislature, the
Eighth Amendment is not offended. State v. Streeter
, 146 N.C.
App. 594, 599, 553 S.E.2d 240, 243 (2001), cert. denied
, 356 N.C.
312, 571 S.E.2d 211 (2002), cert. denied
, 537 U.S. 1217, 154 L. Ed.
2d 1071 (2003). Moreover, both this Court and our Supreme Court
have rejected constitutional challenges to the Habitual Felon Act
based on allegations of cruel and unusual punishment. State v.
, 169 N.C. App. 397, 403, 610 S.E.2d 399, 403 (2005);
accord State v. Clifton
, 158 N.C. App. 88, 95-96, 580 S.E.2d 40,
45-46, cert. denied
, 357 N.C. 463, 586 S.E.2d 266 (2003); State v.
, 112 N.C. App. 462, 468, 436 S.E.2d 251, 255 (1993) (holdingthat a thirty-year sentence for possession of stolen goods as an
habitual felon was not cruel and unusual punishment). As a
recidivist, defendant was subject to enhanced punishment for his
crime, as prescribed by our legislature. See, e.g.
, State v.
, 126 N.C. App. 318, 321, 484 S.E.2d 818, 820 (1997), cert.
, 354 N.C. 72, 553 S.E.2d 208 (2001).
Accordingly, the trial court did not err in refusing to
instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of misdemeanor
larceny and based on defendant's conviction and habitual felon
status, properly sentenced defendant. In the instant case,
therefore, these assignments of error are overruled.
The record on appeal includes additional assignments of error
not addressed by defendant in his brief to this Court. By rule, we
deem them abandoned. N.C.R. App. P. 28(b)(6).
Judges HUDSON and STEELMAN concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
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