Appeal by Defendant from judgments entered 24 February 2005 by
Judge Jerry Cash Martin in Superior Court, Moore County. Heard in
the Court of Appeals 1 November 2006.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Edwin W. Welch, for the State.
Appellate Defender Staples Hughes, by Assistant Appellate
Defender Anne M. Gomez, for Defendant.
William Garfield Little, Jr. (Defendant) appeals his
convictions of three counts of first degree murder. At trial, Juan
Carlos Guerrero Romero (Romero) testified that on 3 June 2002,
Kevin Brower (Brower) called Romero and asked whether Romero knew
where Brower could purchase a kilogram of cocaine. Romero said he
had a friend who could sell Brower the cocaine. Later that day,
Brower and Defendant went to Romero's house and asked to purchase
a kilogram of cocaine. Romero talked to his friend, Jose Luis
Zapatero (Zapatero), and Zapatero told Romero to bring Brower and
Defendant to his house.
Romero testified that he, Brower, and Defendant went to
Zapatero's trailer and waited inside the trailer for the cocaine tobe delivered. Romero further testified that Elmer Carbajal
(Carbajal) and Emedel Hernandez (Hernandez) arrived at Zapatero's
trailer and put cocaine on the table. Romero testified that either
Brower or Defendant put a plastic bag containing money on the
table. Romero testified that Hernandez told Brower and Defendant
that four ounces of cocaine were missing from the kilogram, but
that he would give them the missing four ounces at a later time.
Romero then said he was leaving, and stood up. Romero testified
that before he could leave, Defendant shot him in the neck, causing
him to fall down. Romero further testified that Brower and
Defendant began shooting Zapatero, Carbajal, and Hernandez. After
the shooting stopped, Brower and Defendant took the cocaine and the
money, and left.
Defendant gave a statement to police that was admitted into
evidence. In his statement, Defendant said he told Brower he
needed to buy cocaine and that Brower told him where he could buy
cocaine. Defendant and Brower drove to Romero's house and then
followed Romero to another trailer. Defendant stated that he,
Brower, Romero, and another man waited in the trailer for several
hours until two Mexican men arrived and put cocaine on the table.
The men spoke to Romero in Spanish. Romero then told Brower that
four ounces were missing from the kilogram of cocaine, but that the
men would supply the missing four ounces the next day. Brower then
told Defendant about the missing four ounces and Defendant said he
did not want to buy the cocaine. Defendant said he began talking
with Romero, and Brower began arguing with the other three men. Defendant stated that Brower pulled out his gun and shot the three
men, and that Defendant "pulled out [his] gun and shot [Romero]
while [Romero] came toward [Defendant]." Defendant stated he left
the money and the cocaine on the table, and went to the car.
Brower came out of the trailer with the cocaine and the money, and
got in the car. Defendant and Brower drove away.
Romero survived his gunshot wound. However, the Associate
Chief Medical Examiner of North Carolina, Dr. Deborah Radisch,
testified that Zapatero, Carbajal and Hernandez died as a result of
The jury returned verdicts finding Defendant guilty of the
first degree murders of Zapatero, Carbajal and Hernandez under the
first degree felony murder rule, based on robbery with a firearm
and assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury on
Romero. The jury recommended that Defendant be sentenced to life
imprisonment for each of the three murders. The jury also returned
a verdict of guilty of assault with a deadly weapon inflicting
serious injury on Romero. The trial court entered judgments on the
three counts of first degree murder and sentenced Defendant to
three consecutive terms of life imprisonment without parole. The
trial court arrested judgment on the charge of assault with a
deadly weapon inflicting serious injury. Defendant appeals.
Defendant argues he is entitled to a new trial because the
trial court improperly excluded evidence offered by Defendant to
show Romero's bias in favor of the State. Specifically, Defendantargues the trial court erred by excluding evidence that Romero was
an illegal alien. We disagree.
An accused in a criminal case has a constitutional right to
cross-examine the witnesses against him. State v. Wrenn
, 316 N.C.
141, 144, 340 S.E.2d 443, 446 (1986). However, the Confrontation
Clause only "'guarantees an opportunity
cross-examination, not cross-examination that is effective in
whatever way, and to whatever extent, the defense might wish.'"
State v. McNeil
, 350 N.C. 657, 677, 518 S.E.2d 486, 498 (1999)
(quoting Delaware v. Fensterer
, 474 U.S. 15, 20, 88 L. Ed. 2d 15,
19 (1985)), cert. denied
, McNeil v. North Carolina
, 529 U.S. 1024,
146 L. Ed. 2d 321 (2000). "[C]ross-examination guaranteed by the
Confrontation Clause is '[s]ubject always to the broad discretion
of a trial judge to preclude repetitive and unduly harassing
at 677, 518 S.E.2d at 499 (quoting Davis v.
, 415 U.S. 308, 316, 39 L. Ed. 2d 347, 353 (1974)). The
scope of cross-examination of witnesses is a matter within the
sound discretion of the trial court, and the trial court's rulings
thereon will only be disturbed upon a showing of abuse of
, 316 N.C. at 144, 340 S.E.2d at 446.
In State v. Hatcher
, 136 N.C. App. 524, 524 S.E.2d 815 (2000),
our Court held the trial court did not abuse its discretion by
excluding cross-examination regarding the immigration status of the
two victims because the evidence was of tenuous relevance and the
trial court allowed cross-examination of similar import. Id.
526, 524 S.E.2d at 816-17. In the present case, evidence ofRomero's immigration status was also of tenuous, if any,
relevance. Moreover, Defendant was able to elicit similar
information to impeach Romero. Defendant asked Romero whether he
had been charged with any drug offenses by the state or federal
governments. Romero testified he had not been charged. He also
testified that no government official had told him he would not be
charged. This tended to show that Romero had not been promised
anything in return for his testimony. Romero also testified that
his uncle, a laborer, gave Romero a social security card when
Romero first arrived in the United States. Romero testified that
he had used this social security number to work in the United
States for the past ten years. Romero further testified that he
did not know to whom the social security number belonged. This
tended to show that Romero had used a false social security number.
We hold the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding
cross-examination regarding Romero's immigration status, and we
overrule this assignment of error.
Defendant also argues the trial court erred by denying his
motion to dismiss the murder indictments on the ground that the
indictments did not allege all the elements of first degree murder.
Our Supreme Court recently reaffirmed its holding that short-form
murder indictments are permissible under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15-144
(2005) and the United States and North Carolina Constitutions.
State v. Allen
, 360 N.C. 297, 316-17, 626 S.E.2d 271, 286, cert.
, Allen v. North Carolina
, ___ U.S. ___, 166 L. Ed. 2d 116(2006). Accordingly, this argument lacks merit and we overrule
this assignment of error.
Defendant filed a Motion for Appropriate Relief with this
Court. Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1418(b) (2005),
[w]hen a motion for appropriate relief is made
in the appellate division, the appellate court
must decide whether the motion may be
determined on the basis of the materials
before it, or whether it is necessary to
remand the case to the trial division for
taking evidence or conducting other
In the present case, we cannot determine Defendant's Motion for
Appropriate Relief on the basis of the materials before us, and we
therefore remand the Motion for Appropriate Relief for an
evidentiary hearing. See
, State v. Brigman
, ___ N.C. App.
___, ___, 632 S.E.2d 498, 509, disc. review denied
, 360 N.C. 650,
636 S.E.2d 813 (2006) (remanding the defendant's Motion for
Appropriate Relief to the trial court for an evidentiary hearing.).
No error; remanded for an evidentiary hearing on Defendant's
Motion for Appropriate Relief.
Judges BRYANT and STEELMAN concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
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