Appeal by defendant from judgment dated 24 July 2006 by Judge
William C. Gore, Jr., in Columbus County Superior Court. Heard in
the Court of Appeals 24 September 2007.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General
Charles E. Reece, for the State.
Thorsen Law Office, by Haakon Thorsen, for defendant-
Trevor Demon Hall (defendant) appeals from a judgment dated 24
July 2006, and entered upon his conviction for the offense ofcommon law robbery. For the reasons stated herein, we find
defendant received a fair trial, free from error.
Complainant Robin Compos testified that on the afternoon of 1
November 2005, she went to visit her friend, Cathy Starling, who
was at home recovering from surgery. Compos planned to drive
Starling to the bank so that she could cash her check and pay her
rent. When Compos arrived at the residence, she found two men and
a woman with Starling. Compos recognized one of the men as
Turbo[,] who was attempting to collect a debt from Starling.
With Turbo were defendant and a woman, neither of whom Compos knew.
Compos drove Starling to a BB&T bank in Riegelwood, North
Carolina, where Starling cashed her check. Turbo and his
associates followed them in a second car. After paying her rent at
a nearby credit union, Starling got into an argument with Turbo.
She then returned to the car and handed Compos the bank envelope
containing the remainder of the proceeds of her check.
Upon returning to Starling's house, Turbo and the unknown
woman joined Starling in a bedroom, while defendant and Compos
waited in the living room. Defendant walked out of the living room
briefly, whereupon his two associates emerged from the bedroom and
exited the house. When defendant came back to the living room,
Compos told him that his ride had just left him. In defendant's
presence, Starling asked Compos for the bank envelope and removed
some of the money. Starling then gave the envelope back to Compos
and told her to hold it for her. Compos put the envelope in herleft front pants' pocket. Starling went into the bathroom.
Visibly upset by his predicament, defendant forced open the
bathroom door and yelled at Starling. Compos threatened to call
the police and told defendant that she would take him wherever
he's needing to go if he left Starling alone. Compos and
defendant got into her car and drove for approximately three miles
toward Whiteville, North Carolina. After directing Compos into a
driveway, defendant put the car's gear shift into park, started
beating [her] in the head and started saying, 'Give me the money,
give me the money.' As Compos tried to protect herself, defendant
ripped the side of her pants and took the envelope from her pocket.
He then calmly got out of the car and walked off.
Compos drove to the home of her former co-worker and called
911. When police arrived, she told them about the robbery and
provided a description of her assailant. The next morning, she
sought treatment at the Riegelwood Medical Clinic for blurred
vision in her right eye and [s]harp, throbbing pains going through
the side of [her] temple, and into [her] eye. The doctor found
that she had muscular swelling in that eye and temple and
prescribed some really strong medication for the pain[.]
Three or four days after the robbery, a detective showed
Compos an array of photographs and asked if she could identify her
assailant. Compos selected defendant's photograph as depicting the
man who assaulted her and stole Starling's money from her pocket on
1 November 2005. Compos also identified defendant in court as the
robber. Daniel Boyes, a physician's assistant, examined Compos at
Riegelwood Medical Clinic on the morning of 2 November 2005.
Compos told Boyes that she had been assaulted, struck multiple
times . . . in the right temporal region[,] and complained of a
headache, blurred vision, tenderness to the scalp and neck pain.
Over defendant's objection, Boyes testified that his examination of
Compos revealed some swelling and tenderness to the right side of
her head as well as exquisit[e] tenderness in the musculature of
the left side of her neck.
Columbus County Sheriff's Detective Adam Coleman testified
that he spoke to Compos on the afternoon of 1 November 2005. She
was very upset and having problems breathing[,] and told him
she had been robbed of money while giving her assailant a ride in
her car after visiting a friend's house. Compos reported that her
assailant hit her in the face and head and ripped her pants pocket
while sitting in the front passenger seat of her car. Over
defendant's objection, Coleman also testified that he dusted the
front passenger's side door of Compos' car for fingerprints and
successfully lifted four latent prints. He learned how to lift
latent prints as part of his Basic Law Enforcement Training
Program, and had performed the activity a lot since becoming a
deputy in 2003.
Detective Mack Brazelle and Latent Print Examiner Angela Berry
of the Columbus County Sheriff's Office testified as experts in
fingerprint identification. After comparing defendant's
fingerprints with the latent print lifted from the passenger's sidedoor of Compos' car, both experts averred that the latent print
found on the car belonged to defendant. Brazelle found no
possibility that the latent print belonged to anyone other than
defendant; and Berry was [one] hundred percent confident in her
identification. Brazelle also confirmed that Compos selected
defendant's photograph from a lineup he showed her on 3 November
 On appeal, defendant claims the trial court erred by
allowing the State to adduce expert testimony from physician's
assistant Boyes and Detective Coleman without complying with the
discovery requirements for expert witnesses set forth in N.C. Gen.
Stat. § 15A-903(a)(2) (2005). Relying on our holding in State v.
, 178 N.C. App. 351, 631 S.E.2d 208 (2006), he faults
the court for allowing Boyes to testify regarding his medical
training and experience and his diagnosis of Compos' condition on
the morning of 2 November 2005. Similarly, defendant notes that
the court allowed Agent Coleman to testify about his training and
the methodology he employed in lifting the latent prints from
Compos' car. Because neither Boyes nor Colemen were designated as
expert witnesses in the State's discovery materials, in accordance
with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-903(a)(2), defendant asserts that he
must receive a new trial. We disagree.
Standard of Review
The determination of whether a witness' testimony constitutes
expert testimony is one within the trial court's discretion, andwill not be reversed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion.
, 178 N.C. App. at 354-55, 631 S.E.2d at 211 (citing
State v. Morgan
, 359 N.C. 131, 160, 604 S.E.2d 886, 904 (2004),
, 546 U.S. 830, 163 L. Ed. 2d 79 (2005)).
Rule 702(a) of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence provides
that [i]f scientific, technical or other specialized knowledge
will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to
determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by
knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may testify
thereto in the form of an opinion. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8C-1, Rule
702(a) (2005). By contrast, a lay witness may offer an opinion
only where it is (a) rationally based on the perception of the
witness and (b) helpful to a clear understanding of his testimony
or the determination of a fact in issue. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8C-1,
Rule 701 (2005).
Having agreed to engage in reciprocal voluntary discovery as
contemplated by N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-902, the State was obliged to
undertake the following disclosures regarding its expert witnesses:
Give notice to the defendant of any expert
witnesses that the State reasonably expects to
call as a witness at trial. Each such witness
shall prepare, and the State shall furnish to
the defendant, a report of the results of any
examinations or tests conducted by the expert.
The State shall also furnish to the defendant
the expert's curriculum vitae, the expert's
opinion, and the underlying basis for that
opinion. The State shall give the notice and
furnish the materials required by this
subsection within a reasonable time prior to
trial, as specified by the court.
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-903(a)(2) (2005). In order to qualify as an
expert, a witness need only be found better qualified than the
jury as to the subject at hand, with the testimony being 'helpful'
to the jury. State v. Davis
, 106 N.C. App. 596, 601, 418 S.E.2d
263, 267 (1992) (citing State v. Huang
, 99 N.C. App. 658, 663, 394
S.E.2d 279, 282, disc. review denied
, 327 N.C. 639, 399 S.E.2d 127
(1990)), disc. review denied
, 333 N.C. 347, 426 S.E.2d 710 (1993).
defendant was charged with possession of
precursor chemicals after police found boxes of matches and Sudafed
and bottles of iodine, hydrogen peroxide, and rubbing alcohol in
the bed of his pickup truck. Blankenship,
178 N.C. App. at 352,
631 S.E.2d at 209. At trial, the State proffered testimony by
State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Kenneth Razzo (Agent
Razzo) as to the manufacturing process of methamphetamine and the
ingredients used. Id.
The defendant objected to Agent Razzo's
testimony based on the State's failure to provide notice and other
discovery required for an expert witness under N.C. Gen. Stat. §
at 353, 631 S.E.2d at 209. The trial court
overruled the objection, concluding that since Agent Razzo would
not be giving his opinion as to the specific facts of defendant's
case, and he had not performed any tests or examinations on any of
the evidence in the case, he would be permitted to testify as a
fact witness. Id.
at 355, 631 S.E.2d at 211.
On appeal, we held the trial court abused its discretion by
treating Agent Razzo as a fact witness rather than an expert. Id.
at 356, 631 S.E.2d at 211. In reaching this conclusion, weassessed both the specialized nature of Agent Razzo's testimony and
the nexus between his field of expertise and the issue before the
jury, as follows:
Although the trial court permitted Agent Razzo
to testify as a so-called lay witness, we hold
that he in fact qualified as, and testified
as, an expert witness. The jury was permitted
to hear testimony about his extensive training
and experience in the process of manufacturing
methamphetamine and clandestine laboratory
investigations, along with his specialized
knowledge of the manufacturing process of
methamphetamine. Also, the State specifically
tendered Agent Razzo as an expert witness, and
the trial court failed to take any action to
remedy the State's attempt to tender Agent
Razzo as an expert. We hold that based on the
presentation of evidence concerning Agent
Razzo's extensive training and experience, he
was better qualified than the jury as to the
subject at hand, and he testified as an
, 106 N.C. App. at 601, 418 S.E.2d at 267).
Because the State had not provided defendant with the required
discovery related to its expert witness under N.C. Gen. Stat. §
15A-903(a)(2), we awarded defendant a new trial. Id.
S.E.2d at 212.
Here, in overruling defendant's Blankenship
Boyes' testimony, the trial court found that he was testifying as
a fact witness for purposes of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-903(a),
notwithstanding his expertise as a physician's assistant. We
agree. Although Boyes apprised the jury of his diagnosis of
Compos' muscle tenderness -- an opinion informed by his specialized
training and experience -- he offered no opinion and brought no
expertise to bear as to the subject at hand at defendant's trial.Davis
, 106 N.C. App. at 601, 418 S.E.2d at 267. Unlike Agent
Razzo, whose specialized knowledge helped the jury to identify the
materials found in the Blankenship's truck
as precursors to
methamphetamine, Boyes' opinion as a physician's assistant was not
germane to the issue before the jury. Therefore, the trial court
did not abuse its discretion in treating Boyes as a fact witness
for discovery purposes. See, e.g., Turner v. Duke Univ.
, 325 N.C.
152, 167-68, 381 S.E.2d 706, 715-16 (1989) (distinguishing between
a physician testifying as a fact witness and as an expert witness
for purposes of discovery under N.C. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(4)).
Further, we find no abuse of discretion by the trial court
under the particular facts of this case. The offense of common law
robbery does not require the application of actual force or the
infliction of injury upon the victim. State v. Wilson
, 26 N.C.
App. 188, 190, 215 S.E.2d 167, 168 (1975). Accordingly, neither
the fact nor the degree of Compos' injuries was essential to the
State's case. Moreover, Boyes offered no opinion regarding the
etiology of Compos' symptoms, or of the consistency between her
injuries and her account of the robbery. Rather, his testimony
served primarily to corroborate Compos' claim that she obtained
medical treatment on 2 November 2005. Even if the court had
excluded Boyes' opinion testimony, he would have been free to offer
factual testimony confirming his treatment of Compos on 2 November
2005, corroborating her statements to him, and stating the
treatment he prescribed for her. Finally, we note that [t]he
purpose of discovery under our statutes is to protect the defendantfrom unfair surprise by the introduction of evidence he cannot
, 178 N.C. App. at 354, 631 S.E.2d at 210
(citation and quotations omitted). The record reflects that the
State provided the defense with records of Compos' appointment with
Boyes at Reigelwood Medical Clinic on 2 November 2005, detailing
her diagnosis and treatment. This assignment of error is
 Defendant raised a similar objection to Deputy Coleman's
testimony about his lifting of the latent fingerprints from Compos'
car. Citing Blankenship
, defendant averred that the State failed
to designate or qualify Deputy Coleman as an expert witness, or to
provide the defense with Coleman's curriculum vitae
N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-903(a)(2). The trial court overruled
defendant's objection, finding that Deputy Coleman was a fact
witness and that he entered no expert opinions requiring him _
requiring the State to provide a [curriculum vitae
] pursuant to
We again find no abuse of discretion by the trial court.
Supreme Court has held that a witness does not give expert
testimony in merely describing the act of collecting latent
fingerprints from a surface:
Admittedly, a person who lifts latent prints
must know how to perform that procedure. But
this does not mean he must be qualified as an
expert. The basic reason for qualifying a
witness as an expert is to insure that he is
better qualified than the jury to form an
opinion and draw appropriate inferences from a
given set of facts.
State v. Shore
, 285 N.C. 328, 340, 204 S.E.2d 682, 690 (1974)
(citation omitted); see also State v. Caddell
, 287 N.C. 266, 277,
215 S.E.2d 348, 355 (1975). Inasmuch as Deputy Coleman did not
purport to compare defendant's fingerprints with the latent prints,
made no attempt to express an opinion and was asked no questions
requiring him to do so[,] he was properly treated as a fact
witness for discovery purposes. Shore
, 285 N.C.
at 340, 204 S.E.2d
at 690. We note that the State provided the defense with proper
discovery regarding its two expert fingerprint analysts, Brazelle
The record on appeal includes two additional assignments of
error which are 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 WYNN and ELMORE concur.
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