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An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.
NORTH CAROLINA COURT OF APPEALS
Filed: 17 April 2007
STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
Nos. 05 CRS 714 - 717
LYNDA LEE WRIGHT
Appeal by defendant from judgments entered 1 February 2006 by
Judge James U. Downs in Henderson County Superior Court. Heard in
the Court of Appeals 21 March 2007.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General
Diane Martin Pomper, for the State.
Randolph and Fischer, by J. Clark Fischer, for defendant-
Lynda Lee Wright (defendant) appeals from judgments entered
after a jury found her to be guilty of: (1) felonious possession
of marijuana; (2) trafficking by possession of at least twenty-
eight grams but less than 200 grams of methamphetamine; (3)
misdemeanor maintaining place to keep controlled substances, to-
wit: methamphetamine and marijuana; and (4) possession of drug
paraphernalia. We find no error.
A. State's Evidence
The State's evidence tended to show on 23 March 2004 Dewey
Hilliard Bartlett (Bartlett) sent two employee's to 432 Clover
Extension to install water meter cutoffs. Bartlett received atelephone call from one of his employees to meet them at that
address. When Bartlett arrived his employees were All tore up,
nervous[.] One employee was later transported to the hospital
because he had been struck by a vehicle.
On 23 March 2004 at approximately 2:22 p.m., 9-1-1 Dispatch
received a telephone call from Bartlett's employees, who reported
they had been struck by a vehicle and were being held at gunpoint.
Fletcher Police Department Officer Sharon Archer (Officer Archer)
was dispatched to 432 Clover Extension. Officer Archer arrived at
the location comprised of twelve to fifteen mobile homes.
Officer Archer talked with Bartlett's employees who directed
her and two other officers to the residence where their alleged
assailants had entered. As Officer Archer approached, defendant
came outside and onto a porch. Defendant was gasping for air as if
suffering from an asthma attack. Defendant was apprehended,
handcuffed, and placed in a patrol vehicle.
Tim Robbins (Robbins), defendant's live-in boyfriend, was
also apprehended. Robbins was asked by officers if he had a
weapon. Robbins responded he owned a weapon and had locked it in
a shed. Robbins provided the officers with a key to retrieve the
While Officer Archer and the other officers questioned
defendant and Robbins, Robbins expressed concern about defendant's
mother, Billie Wright (Wright), inside the residence. Robbins
told Officer Archer that Wright had just returned from surgery and
needed to be checked on. Officer Archer entered the residence and spoke with Wright.
Wright asked Officer Archer to find a cellular phone so she could
call for 9-1-1 in case of an emergency. Officer Archer searched
several areas of the residence without finding a cellular phone.
Officer Archer entered the master bedroom, looked on the night
stand, found the cellular phone, and observed what appeared to be
drug paraphernalia. Officer Archer observed a clear rocket shaped
cylinder with a plastic bag containing a white, powdery
substance inside the cylinder. Officer Archer gave the cellular
phone to Wright and exited the residence.
Officer Archer obtained a search warrant and returned to
search the residence. Controlled substances were found in the
bathroom connected to the master bedroom. The master bedroom was
also searched and controlled substances and drug paraphernalia were
found. Officer Archer also observed: (1) men's and women's
clothing in the dresser and on the floor; (2) prescription drug
bottles containing defendant's name in the dresser; and (3)
defendant's identification card in the pocket of a pair of pants
located on the floor in the master bedroom.
Fletcher Police Department Sergeant Steve Morgan (Sergeant
Morgan) discovered a Pringle's potato chip container in a bedroom
closet that contained $987.00 in cash.
On 11 April 2005, defendant was indicted on the charges of:
(1) possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana; (2)
trafficking in methamphetamine; (3) maintaining a place to keep
controlled substances; and (4) possession of drug paraphernalia. North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Jay
Thomas Pintacuda (Agent Pintacuda) testified as an expert witness
in forensic chemistry. Agent Pintacuda stated the drugs seized
during the search of the residence consisted of approximately
eighty-five grams of methamphetamine and 444.5 grams of marijuana.
During the State's presentation of evidence, the State moved
in limine to exclude defendant from presenting evidence Robbins had
been convicted for criminal offenses related to the same drugs
defendant was being tried for. The trial court granted the State's
motion and stated, Now, that does not prevent [defendant] from
calling [Robbins] and letting him testify to what he was found
guilty of. Defendant objected.
B. Defendant's Evidence
Defendant testified and presented evidence. Rachel Lee Morgan
(Rachel), defendant's daughter, lived with defendant and Robbins
in March 2004. Rachel testified: (1) defendant and Robbins were
engaged in a strained romantic relationship, but continued to
reside at the same residence; (2) defendant either stayed in the
bedroom with her mother, Wright, or slept on the couch; (3) she had
never seen any of the drugs found during Officer Archer's search;
and (4) she had never known defendant to use any type of controlled
Christina Morgan (Christina), who is also defendant's
daughter, testified that in March 2004: (1) defendant's
relationship with Robbins had deteriorated because he had been
cheating on her; (2) defendant wanted Robbins to move out of theresidence; (3) defendant was sleeping in the living room; (4)
Robbins spent the majority of the time in the master bedroom; and
(5) she had never seen any of the drugs Officer Archer recovered
during the search.
Defendant testified on her own behalf. Defendant testified:
(1) at the time of the search, she was staying in the living room
because she had caught Robbins with a couple of different women;
(2) in January 2004, she had called police officers to remove
Robbins from the residence; (3) Robbins stayed in the master
bedroom where the drugs were found; (4) she couldn't handle being
in the master bedroom; and (5) she has never used methamphetamine.
C. State's Rebuttal Evidence
The State called Officer Archer in rebuttal. Officer Archer
testified: (1) both defendant and Robbins gave 423 Clover
Extension as their address during post-arrest booking; (2) female
undergarments were found on the floor of and in the dresser located
in the master bedroom; and (3) prescription drug bottles containing
defendant's name were found inside the master bedroom.
On 1 February 2006, the jury convicted defendant of: (1)
felonious possession of marijuana, a lesser included offense of
possession with intent to sell or deliver marijuana; (2)
trafficking by possession of at least twenty-eight grams but less
than 200 grams of methamphetamine; (3) misdemeanor maintaining
place to keep controlled substances, to-wit: methamphetamine and
marijuana; and (4) possession of drug paraphernalia. Defendant wassentenced to seventy to eighty-four months imprisonment. Defendant
Defendant argues the trial court erred by granting the State's
motion in limine to exclude evidence that Robbins had been
convicted for drug related criminal offenses related to the same
drugs for which was charged.
III. Motion in Limine
Defendant asserts the trial court's exclusion of evidence
deprived [d]efendant of significant evidence supporting her
defense that the drugs found in her home were solely the
responsibility of Robbins rather than herself. We disagree.
The trial court's decision to exclude or admit evidence is
generally reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard of review.
State v. Hyatt, 355 N.C. 642, 662, 566 S.E.2d 61, 74 (2002), cert.
denied, 537 U.S. 1133, 154 L. Ed. 2d 823 (2003). A trial court
may be reversed for an abuse of discretion only upon a showing that
its ruling was so arbitrary that it could not have been the result
of a reasoned decision. State v. Wilson, 313 N.C. 516, 538, 330
S.E.2d 450, 465 (1985) (internal citation omitted).
Here, defendant argues the exclusion of evidence that Robbins
committed the crimes was error. Our Supreme Court has stated:
Evidence that another committed the crime for
which the defendant is charged generally is
relevant and admissible as long as it does
more than create an inference or conjecture in
this regard. It must point directly to the
guilt of the other party. Under Rule 401 such
evidence must tend both to implicate anotherand be inconsistent with the guilt of the
State v. Israel, 353 N.C. 211, 217, 539 S.E.2d 633, 637 (2000)
(emphasis supplied) (quoting State v. Cotton, 318 N.C. 663, 667,
351 S.E.2d 277, 279-80 (1987)).
Robbins's convictions for criminal offenses related to the
same drugs defendant was charged with tends to implicate another.
Id. Robbins's convictions however fail to be inconsistent with
the guilt of the defendant. Id. Defendant could constructively
possess the drugs and drug paraphernalia even though Robbins may
have actually possessed the drugs and drug paraphernalia. See
State v. Matias, 354 N.C. 549, 552, 556 S.E.2d 269, 270 (2001)
(Constructive possession exists when the defendant, 'while not
having actual possession, . . . has the intent and capability to
maintain control and dominion over' the narcotics.) (quoting State
v. Beaver, 317 N.C. 643, 648, 346 S.E.2d 476, 480 (1986)). The
trial court's ruling on the State's motion did not prevent
[defendant] from calling [Robbins] and letting him testify to what
he was found guilty of.
The trial court did not abuse its discretion by not allowing
defendant to present evidence that Robbins had been convicted for
criminal offenses related to the same drugs for which she was on
trial. Evidence of Robbins's convictions were properly excluded
because they failed to raise any inference of defendant's
innocence. Israel, 353 N.C. at 217, 539 S.E.2d at 637.
Defendant argues that our Supreme Court's decision in Isreal
has been overruled by a recent United States Supreme Courtdecision, Holmes v. South Carolina, 547 U.S. 319, 164 L. Ed. 2d 503
(2006). We disagree.
In Holmes, the United States Supreme Court reversed a decision
by the South Carolina Supreme Court. 547 U.S. at ___, 164 L. Ed.
2d at 511. Contrary to defendant's argument, the Court in Holmes
did not overrule North Carolina's rule that evidence of the guilt
of another must tend both to implicate another and be inconsistent
with the guilt of the defendant. Israel, 353 N.C. at 217, 539
S.E.2d at 637. Instead, the Court cited approvingly from a South
Carolina case stating the same rule that, [E]vidence offered by
accused as to the commission of the crime by another person must be
limited to such facts as are inconsistent with his own guilt, and
to such facts as raise a reasonable inference or presumption as to
his own innocence[.] . . . Holmes, 547 U.S. at ___, 164 L. Ed. 2d
at 511 (quoting State v. Gregory, 198 S.C. 98, 104-05, 16 S.E.2d
532, 534-35 (1941)). This argument misstates the Court's holding
in Holmes and is overruled.
The trial court did not abuse its discretion by preventing
defendant from presenting evidence Robbins had been convicted for
criminal offenses related to the same drugs she was being tried
for. The trial court did not prevent [defendant] from calling
[Robbins] and letting him testify to what he was found guilty of.
Robbins's conviction was not inconsistent with the guilt of the
, 353 N.C. at 217, 539 S.E.2d at 637. Defendantreceived a fair trial, free from prejudicial errors she preserved,
assigned, and argued.
Judges HUNTER and JACKSON concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
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