Appeal by defendant from a judgment dated 23 March 2006 by
Judge Clifton W. Everett, Jr. in Wilson County Superior Court.
Heard in the Court of Appeals 24 May 2007.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Assistant Attorney General,
Tina A. Krasner, for the State.
Jeffrey Evan Noecker for defendant.
Terrance Jermaine Quinlan (defendant) appeals from a judgment
dated 23 March 2006 and entered consistent with a jury verdict
finding him guilty of voluntary manslaughter. For the reasons
stated herein, we find defendant received a fair trial free from
The State's evidence tended to show the following: On 12
December 2003, Bettina Edwards, her two-year-old daughter Jada, and
Bettina's boyfriend Phillip McIver were at Ms. Edwards' apartment
watching a movie together. Mr. McIver responded to a knock at the
back door of the apartment. Ms. Edwards initially could not see
who was at the door, but could identify the voice of defendant. Defendant and Mr. McIver began to argue and Ms. Edwards went to the
back door. While standing at the back door Ms. Edwards began
shining a small laser light on the faces of defendant and Mr.
McIver as they argued. As the argument ended and defendant began
to walk away from the apartment a car parked in the yard began
blinking its headlights. Defendant then turned back around and
began shooting. Mr. McIver sustained three gunshot wounds, one
each to his abdomen, left arm, and left knee, and later died as a
result of the gunshot wound to his abdomen.
Defendant was apprehended near the scene of the shooting,
taken into custody and questioned by law enforcement. Initially,
defendant invoked his right to remain silent and to speak with an
attorney. Defendant later waived his rights and made a statement
to investigating officers admitting he shot McIver as he was
walking away from Ms. Edwards' residence because he saw a blue
light or beam pointing toward him and he felt his life was in
danger. Defendant presented no evidence at trial.
On 6 July 2004, defendant was indicted on the charge of first-
degree murder. Defendant was tried before a jury at the 20 March
2006 Criminal Session of the Superior Court of Wilson County, the
Honorable Clifton W. Everett, Jr. presiding. On 23 March 2006, the
jury returned its verdict, finding defendant guilty of voluntary
manslaughter. The trial court subsequently entered judgment
against defendant, consistent with the jury verdict, and sentenced
defendant to an active term of 103 to 133 months imprisonment inthe custody of the North Carolina Department of Correction.
Defendant raises the issues of whether the trial court erred
in: (I) allowing the State to introduce evidence that defendant
had invoked his right to remain silent; and (II) expressing its
opinion on the credibility of one of the State's key witnesses.
Defendant first contends the trial court erred in allowing the
State to introduce evidence that he had invoked his right to remain
silent pursuant to the Fifth Amendment to the United States
Constitution. At trial the State elicited, without objection, the
following testimony from Detective Glenn Neal:
Q. And did you read [defendant] his waiver of
A. Yes, I did.
. . .
Q. And that is your signature at the bottom,
as well as the Defendant's signature?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And did you witness that Defendant, over
there in the white shirt and the tie -- did
you witness him sign that piece of paper?
A. Yes, I did.
. . .
Q. And after he read the -- after the
Defendant read the waiver of rights and you
read the waiver of rights to him, what did --
what did you say and do then?
A. At that point in time, he stated he did not
wish to make a statement. He stated he would
like to speak with an attorney.
Q. Okay. And when someone does that, what do
A. At that point in time, they invoke their
rights, so we cannot ask them any more
questions at that point.
Q. Okay. And what did you do when he invoked
his right at that point?
A. He was taken out of the interview room. He
was carried back to what we call Patrol Area.
This is an area with three or four desks in
it. It's also got a fingerprint machine, which
we use to start processing people that we have
brought into the Sheriff's Office.
The North Carolina Supreme Court has addressed a similar
the exercise of [a defendant's]
constitutionally protected rights to remain
silent and to request counsel during
interrogation may not be introduced as
evidence against [a defendant] by the State at
trial. However, even when a defendant objects,
this constitutional error will not merit a new
trial where the State shows that the error was
harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Where, as
in this case, a defendant has failed to
object, the defendant has the burden of
showing that the error constituted plain
error, that is, (i) that a different result
probably would have been reached but for the
error or (ii) that the error was so
fundamental as to result in a miscarriage of
justice or denial of a fair trial.
State v. Bishop
, 346 N.C. 365, 385, 488 S.E.2d 769, 779 (1997)
(internal citations omitted).
Defendant is correct in his assertion that the admission of
the testimony regarding the exercise of his right to remain silent
was error. Id.
However, defendant has not met his burden to showthe admission amounted to plain error. The comments were
relatively harmless and the inadmissable evidence came out as
Detective Neal was describing the steps he took during the
investigation of the case, including the chronology of the
interview with defendant. The prosecutor did not emphasize that
defendant had exercised his right to remain silent or imply that
doing so was an admission of guilt. Further, the evidence of
defendant's guilt was substantial and corroborated by a number of
eyewitnesses. Given the case at hand, we cannot conclude that the
jury would have probably reached a different result if this
testimony had been excluded or that defendant did not receive a
fair trial. See State v. Alexander
, 337 N.C. 182, 194-96, 446
S.E.2d 83, 90-91 (1994). This assignment of error is overruled.
Defendant next argues the trial court erred by expressing its
opinion on the credibility of one of the State's key witnesses. It
is well established that the trial court may not express during
any stage of the trial, any opinion in the presence of the jury on
any question of fact to be decided by the jury. N.C. Gen. Stat.
§ 15A-1222 (2005); see also State v. Fleming
, 350 N.C. 109, 125,
512 S.E.2d 720, 732 (1999). This includes expressing any opinion
regarding the weight or credibility of any competent evidence
presented before the jury. State v. Harris
, 308 N.C. 159, 167, 301
S.E.2d 91, 97 (1983). This Court must consider the totality of the
circumstances in evaluating whether a trial court has expressed an
impermissible opinion. Fleming
, 350 N.C. at 125, 512 S.E.2d at 732(citing State v. Jones
, 347 N.C. 193, 207, 491 S.E.2d 641, 649-50
(1997)). However, [a] remark by the court is not grounds for a
new trial if, when considered in the light of the circumstances
under which it was made, it could not have prejudiced defendant's
case. State v. Anderson
, 350 N.C. 152, 179, 513 S.E.2d 296, 312
(1999) (citation and quotation omitted).
Defendant sought to attack Ms. Edwards' credibility by
questioning Detective Neal regarding a written statement attributed
to Ms. Edwards and written by her mother. At the time of
defendant's questioning of Detective Neal evidence had already been
admitted that two statements were given to Detective Neal, one
written by Ms. Edwards and another written by Ms. Edwards' mother
because Ms. Edwards' handwriting wasn't all that good because of
[her] nerves, so [her] mother had to rewrite it. The wording of
the two statements was identical and they were written outside the
presence of Detective Neal. The statement written by Ms. Edwards'
mother was introduced into evidence by the State without objection.
The statement written by Ms. Edwards was never introduced into
evidence and Detective Neal denied ever receiving it.
During defendant's cross-examination of Detective Neal the
Q. Now, is it normal in a murder case to have
the eyewitness's mother write the statement
for them, in your experience?
THE COURT: Well, sustained.
[PROSECUTOR]: Judge, objection. There's no
relevance to this.
THE COURT: Sustained.
Q. Were you present when the statement was
written by Arlene Sutton?
A. No, sir, I was not.
Q. I noticed that the other statements in this
case are all signed by the person giving the
statement. Is that normal procedure?
Q. Okay. Why is it that Bettina Edwards'
signature or initials appear nowhere on this
THE COURT: Are you going to object?
[PROSECUTOR]: Yes, sir, Your Honor.
THE COURT: Sustained.
Q. Do you consider it to be her statement?
A. Yes, I do.
Q. Was her mother there that day?
A. Yes, she was.
Defendant contends the trial court erroneously expressed an
opinion regarding the credibility of Ms. Edwards by sustaining its
own objection to defendant's question as to whether it was normal
in a murder case to have the eyewitness's mother write the
statement for them and then by later asking the State if it was
going to object to defendant's question Why is it that Bettina
Edwards' signature or initials appear nowhere on this statement?
'The trial court has a duty to control the examination of
witnesses, both for the purpose of conserving the trial court's
time and for the purpose of protecting the witness from prolonged,
needless, or abusive examination.' Jones
, 347 N.C. at 207, 491S.E.2d at 649 (quoting State v. White
, 340 N.C. 264, 299, 457
S.E.2d 841, 861, cert. denied
, 516 U.S. 994, 133 L. Ed. 2d 436
(1995)). Defendant's first question was irrelevant to the matter
at hand, and the second question asked for an answer beyond the
scope of Detective Neal's knowledge. Neither of the trial court's
interjections expressed any opinion as to the credibility of Ms.
Edwards. Further, defendant cannot show he was prejudiced by the
interjections as he had ample opportunity to attack the credibility
of Ms. Edwards during his extensive cross-examination of her
regarding her statement and why it had been written and signed by
her mother. Additionally, we note the trial judge properly
instructed the jury that the law requires the presiding judge to be
impartial and that it should not draw any inferences from his
rulings, inflections in his voice, expressions on his face,
questions asked of any witnesses, or anything else he might have
said or done. These assignments of error are overruled.
Judges McCULLOUGH and STROUD concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
*** Converted from WordPerfect ***