Appeal by Defendant from judgments dated 11 April 2006 by
Judge Jerry R. Tillett in Superior Court, Wilson County. Heard in
the Court of Appeals 22 August 2007.
Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Mark A. Davis, for the State.
Parish & Cooke, by James R. Parish, for Defendant.
Terry Clay Edwards (Defendant) was convicted on 11 April 2006
of second-degree murder and robbery with a dangerous weapon. The
trial court sentenced Defendant to a term of 189-236 months in
prison on the charge of second-degree murder, and to a consecutive
term of 77-102 months in prison on the charge of robbery with a
dangerous weapon. Defendant appeals.
The evidence presented at trial tended to show the following:
Defendant's brother, Ed Edwards (Edwards), was on trial in April
2005 for an unrelated felony assault. Corey Clay (Clay), a cousin
of Edwards and Defendant, was an eyewitness to the assault and
testified at Edwards' trial. Prior to Clay's testimony at Edwards'
trial, Defendant had left a message on Clay's answering machinethreatening to harm Clay if Clay testified against Edwards. After
receiving this threat, Clay attempted to obtain a warrant against
Defendant, but was unsuccessful.
Edwards was found guilty at his felony assault trial on 26
April 2005. Detective Rob Weatherford (Detective Weatherford) of
the Wilson Police Department had been present in the courtroom
during Edwards' trial. According to Detective Weatherford,
Defendant also had been present in the courtroom during Edwards'
trial and became visibly angry and upset when the verdict was read.
Defendant told his mother that he needed to go for a walk and calm
down, and Defendant left the courthouse. Defendant made a number
of short stops and then walked to Clay's house. One of Clay's
neighbors later saw Defendant leaving Clay's house. The neighbor
said that Defendant was walking quickly and was carrying a plastic
bag. Clay's roommate testified that he returned home from work
later that afternoon and found Clay lying on the floor in a puddle
of blood. An autopsy revealed that Clay had died from a stab wound
to his chest. In addition, Clay had suffered numerous knife wounds
to his neck, cuts on his chest and hand, scrapes on his face, and
bruises under his scalp and near his left collar bone. The
physician who performed the autopsy testified at trial that the
parallel arrangement of Clay's multiple neck wounds suggested that
Clay was not moving at the time the wounds were inflicted.
Detective Johnny Hendricks (Detective Hendricks) of the Wilson
Police Department interviewed Defendant the following day.
Defendant was informed of his Miranda rights and gave a statementto Detective Hendricks. Detective Hendricks later read Defendant's
statement into evidence at trial. In his statement, Defendant
admitted leaving a phone message for Clay. Defendant also admitted
that he was very upset after the verdict in Edwards' felony assault
case. According to Defendant's statement, by the time Defendant
arrived at Clay's house, he had calmed down and was no longer upset
with Clay. Defendant and Clay shook hands, and Clay went to the
kitchen to get a beer for Defendant. Defendant claimed that Clay
returned from the kitchen with a knife and lunged at Defendant,
believing that Defendant had come to the house to kill him.
Defendant attempted to convince Clay that he did not intend any
harm, but Defendant was unsuccessful. Defendant and Clay fought
and Clay was injured. After the fight, Defendant put Clay on a
couch and then noticed that the knife had fallen to the floor and
had blood on it. Defendant claimed he then panicked, and quickly
decided to clean up the scene. Defendant found a trash bag and
placed a number of items in the bag, including the knife and Clay's
telephone. Defendant then apologized to Clay and left Clay's house
with the bag.
After giving his statement to Detective Hendricks, Defendant
led police to the trash bag that he took from Clay's house.
Detective Hendricks testified that police recovered a broken knife
and Defendant's bloody sweat pants from the bag, as well as a
number of household items, including a telephone, clock, music box,
candle holder, ashtray, and picture frames. A forensic examination
of the knife and sweat pants revealed that the blood on those itemsbelonged to Clay. In addition, Defendant's DNA was found under
Defendant's testimony at trial was consistent with the
statement he gave Detective Hendricks regarding the telephone
message and the events that led to Clay's death. Defendant also
admitted that he stabbed Clay in the throat with the knife found in
the trash bag. The trial court instructed the jury on first-degree
murder, second-degree murder, and voluntary manslaughter, as well
as robbery with a dangerous weapon and common law robbery. The
jury convicted Defendant of second-degree murder and robbery with
a dangerous weapon.
Defendant appeals. Defendant argues that the trial court
should have dismissed both charges against him due to insufficiency
of the State's evidence. We find no error.
Defendant first assigns error to the trial court's failure to
dismiss the charge of robbery with a dangerous weapon due to the
insufficiency of the evidence against him.
To survive a motion to dismiss based on insufficient evidence,
the State must present "substantial evidence (1) of each essential
element of the offense charged, or of a lesser offense included
therein, and (2) of [the] defendant's being the perpetrator of such
offense." State v. Powell
, 299 N.C. 95, 98, 261 S.E.2d 114, 117
(1980). Substantial evidence exists if, considered in the light
most favorable to the State, the evidence "gives rise to a
reasonable inference of guilt." State v. Jones
, 303 N.C. 500, 504,279 S.E.2d 835, 838 (1981). However, a defendant's motion to
dismiss must be granted "[i]f the evidence is sufficient only to
raise a suspicion or conjecture as to either the commission of the
offense or the identity of the defendant as the perpetrator of
, 299 N.C. at 98, 261 S.E.2d at 117.
The elements of robbery with a dangerous weapon under N.C.
Gen. Stat. § 14-87 are: "(1) an unlawful taking or an attempt to
take personal property from the person or in the presence of
another, (2) by use or threatened use of a firearm or other
dangerous weapon, (3) whereby the life of a person is endangered or
threatened." State v. Call
, 349 N.C. 382, 417, 508 S.E.2d 496, 518
(1998). Defendant asserts that the State's only evidence
concerning the taking of Clay's property was Defendant's statement
to Detective Hendricks:
I looked around at the mess. I decided
to clean up. I started picking up the
pictures we knocked over. I saw the knife on
the floor. The knife had blood on it. I
panicked and decided to clean up. I went into
the kitchen and grabbed a trash bag. I put
some pictures in the bag, candle holders, the
knife and the phone. I put everything in the
bag because I was scared. . . . [Clay] looked
at me and I told him I was sorry. . . .
I took the clear plastic bag with all the
stuff I picked up. I locked [Clay's] door and
left with the bags.
Defendant claims that this evidence, even taken in the light most
favorable to the State, suggests only that Defendant took the
property as a mere afterthought to the assault. Therefore,
according to Defendant, he did not actually use the knife to
effectuate the taking, thus negating the second and third elementsof the offense.
To be convicted on a charge of robbery with a dangerous
weapon, "the defendant's threatened use or use of a dangerous
weapon must precede or be concomitant with the taking, or be so
joined by time and circumstances with the taking as to be part of
one continuous transaction." State v. Olson
, 330 N.C. 557, 566,
411 S.E.2d 592, 597 (1992). Further, if the victim dies as a
result of use of the deadly weapon, it does not matter that the
victim died before the taking actually occurred, so long as the
death and the taking comprised one continuous transaction. See
State v. Fields
, 315 N.C. 191, 201, 337 S.E.2d 518, 524 (1985)
(noting that the fact "[t]hat the victim is already dead when his
possessions are taken has not previously been an impediment in this
jurisdiction to the defendant's conviction for armed robbery").
Defendant relies on Powell
to demonstrate that his taking of
Clay's property was a mere afterthought to the assault. In Powell
the State's evidence tended to show that the defendant raped,
strangled, and stabbed the victim in her bedroom. Powell
, 299 N.C.
at 97, 261 S.E.2d at 116. The defendant then took a carving knife
and a small television from the victim's house, as well as the
victim's automobile, but the defendant did not ransack or otherwise
disturb the victim's belongings. Id.
The physical evidence
suggested that the victim was murdered in her bedroom during the
rape, before the defendant committed the larceny. Id.
at 102, 261
S.E.2d at 119. Therefore, our Supreme Court held, the evidence
"indicate[d] only that [the] defendant took the objects as anafterthought once the victim had died." Id.
The Court noted that
while the crimes of rape, murder, and armed robbery can be
committed in one single transaction, the facts in Powell
show one single transaction. Id.
Defendant's reliance on Powell
, however, is unavailing. In
our present case
, there is sufficient evidence that Defendant
killed Clay and took Clay's property in one continuous transaction.
By Defendant's own admission, while he was placing the items in the
plastic bag, "[Clay] was still sitting on the couch. [Clay] looked
at me and I told him I was sorry." Unlike in Powell
, where the
evidence tended to show that the victim was murdered during an act
of rape that preceded the taking, Defendant's statement in this
case gives rise to an inference that shortly before the taking,
Clay, though still conscious, had been rendered helpless by
Defendant's use of a knife. Clay's incapacitation at the hands of
Defendant allowed Defendant to conceal the assault by removing
certain property and exiting Clay's house without interference.
Defendant's own version of the facts is sufficient to establish the
type of continuous transaction that our Supreme Court did not find
. See State v. Davis
, 325 N.C. 607, 631, 386 S.E.2d 418,
430-31 (1989), cert. denied
, 496 U.S. 905, 110 L. Ed. 2d 268 (1990)
where the evidence gave rise to "a
reasonable inference that [the] defendant engaged in a purposeful
search of the victim's apartment, at least some part of which
occurred in her presence against her will and by putting her in
fear"). Defendant contends that he decided to clean up the scene only
after the assault occurred, which proves that the taking was a mere
afterthought to the assault. However, the fact that Defendant may
have formed the intent to take Clay's property only after
Defendant's use of force does not separate an otherwise continuous
transaction into two distinct occurrences. See Fields
, 315 N.C. at
203, 337 S.E.2d at 525 (holding that "when the circumstances of the
alleged armed robbery reveal [the] defendant intended to
permanently deprive the owner of his property and the taking was
effectuated by the use of a dangerous weapon, it makes no
difference whether the intent to steal was formulated before the
use of force or after it, so long as the theft and the use or
threat of force can be perceived by the jury as constituting a
single transaction"). Nor is the wrongful taking excused simply
because Defendant was panicked or scared, or because he desired to
"cover up" the incident. See State v. Green
, 321 N.C. 594, 605,
365 S.E.2d 587, 594, cert. denied
, 488 U.S. 900, 102 L. Ed. 2d 235
(1988) (finding a single transaction and affirming the defendant's
armed robbery conviction despite the defendant's claim that he
removed his victims' wallets "to conceal the identities of the
murder victims, [as] an afterthought following the commission of
the crimes"); Fields
, 315 N.C. at 202, 337 S.E.2d at 525 (noting
that "mixed motives do not negate actions that point undeniably to
a taking inconsistent with the owner's possessory rights"); State
, 309 N.C. 549, 557, 308 S.E.2d 252, 257 (1983) (holding
that even though the defendant was scared and confused afterkilling the victim, and only took the victim's car in order to
flee, the defendant's armed robbery conviction was supported
because he "never intended to return the car and . . . he took it
and disposed of it . . . with indifference to the rights of the
We hold that the State presented substantial evidence that
Defendant committed each element of the offense of robbery with a
dangerous weapon. Therefore, the trial court did not err by
denying Defendant's motion to dismiss.
Defendant next assigns as error the trial court's failure to
dismiss the charge of second-degree murder due to insufficiency of
the State's evidence.
The elements of second-degree murder under N.C. Gen. Stat §
14-17 are: "(1) the unlawful killing, (2) of another human being,
(3) with malice, but (4) without premeditation and deliberation."
State v. Coble
, 351 N.C. 448, 449, 527 S.E.2d 45, 46 (2000).
Defendant asserts that all of the State's evidence presented at
trial conclusively established that he acted only in self-defense,
thus negating elements (1) and (3).
Indeed, there was evidence presented at trial to support a
claim of self-defense. For example, multiple witnesses testified
that, prior to April 2005, Clay and Defendant frequently socialized
and enjoyed each other's company. Clay's roommate testified that,
in the time between Defendant's threatening phone call to Clay and
Clay's death, Clay and Defendant continued to interact with eachother socially, without incident. Defendant's statement to
Detective Hendricks asserted that after the threatening phone call,
Defendant and Clay had settled their differences. Most
importantly, Defendant's statement and trial testimony also
consistently identified Clay as the initial aggressor in the
incident that led to Clay's death. According to Defendant, the
State introduced no evidence to rebut Defendant's claim of self-
defense. Specifically, the State introduced into evidence
Defendant's statement to Detective Hendricks, but did not offer any
evidence inconsistent with Defendant's version of the facts
contained therein - that Clay, unprovoked, lunged at Defendant with
It is true that "[w]hen the State introduces into evidence a
defendant's confession containing exculpatory statements which are
not contradicted or shown to be false by any other facts or
circumstances in evidence, the State is bound by the exculpatory
statements." State v. Williams
, 308 N.C. 47, 66, 301 S.E.2d 335,
347, cert. denied
, 464 U.S. 865, 78 L. Ed. 2d 177 (1983). In State
, 261 N.C. 727, 136 S.E.2d 84 (1964), for example, the
State's evidence against the defendant consisted entirely of the
defendant's statement to police. Id.
at 728, 136 S.E.2d at 85.
According to the defendant's statement, the defendant's ex-
boyfriend came to her home and demanded to enter. When the
defendant refused his request, the man became belligerent, forced
his way through the defendant's door, and tried to grab the
defendant. The defendant then stabbed the man with a kitchenknife. Id.
at 728-29, 136 S.E.2d at 85. The defendant also
testified that her ex-boyfriend had previously assaulted her with
an axe, and had also assaulted and threatened her earlier that
at 729, 136 S.E.2d at 86. The defendant was
convicted of manslaughter. Id.
at 728, 136 S.E.2d at 85. Finding
no evidence in the record to contradict the defendant's version of
the facts, our Supreme Court reversed her conviction, holding that
"[w]hen the State's evidence and that of the defendant are to the
same effect and tend only to exculpate the defendant, motion for
nonsuit should be allowed." Id.
at 730, 136 S.E.2d at 86. Also,
in State v. Carter
, 254 N.C. 475, 119 S.E.2d 461 (1961), the
State's uncontroverted evidence established that the defendant's
father was the initial aggressor, and that the defendant killed her
father only to prevent him from inflicting serious physical harm
upon the defendant's mother. Id.
at 476-78, 119 S.E.2d at 462-63.
Reversing the defendant's manslaughter conviction, the Court noted
that the evidence "plainly negatives the existence of an unlawful
killing. The exculpatory statements of the defendant are not
contradicted or shown to be false by any other fact or circumstance
in evidence." Id.
at 479, 119 S.E.2d at 464.
, however, are distinguishable from the case
before us. In the present case, the
State did not rely entirely on
Defendant's exculpatory statements to prove his guilt. Rather, the
State presented substantial physical and circumstantial evidence to
rebut Defendant's self-defense claim, including, inter alia
Defendant had previously threatened Clay's life; (2) Defendant waspresent in court and reacted with visible anger when Edwards was
found guilty; (3) Defendant went to Clay's house shortly
thereafter, during which time Clay received deadly stabbing wounds;
(4) the pattern of the stabbing wounds indicated that Clay was
already incapacitated and motionless when he received those wounds;
(5) Defendant received no apparent injuries during the incident;
and (6) Defendant's immediate reaction to the altercation was to
clean up the scene, hide his bloody clothes, and take Clay's
telephone, preventing Clay from calling for help. See State v.
, 3 N.C. App. 353, 354-55, 164 S.E.2d 618, 619 (1968)
where the defendant's claim that the killing
was accidental was contradicted by the State's evidence that the
defendant and the decedent had previously quarreled, and that the
defendant's use of a knife was intentional).
Defendant essentially argues that the State was required to
present eyewitness testimony to contradict Defendant's version of
the altercation. This argument is without merit. The jury was
instructed on self-defense, and could properly consider any
competent evidence presented at trial to determine whether
Defendant's account of the altercation was credible. See State v.
, 288 N.C. 632, 636-38, 220 S.E.2d 575, 580-81 (1975),
rev'd on other grounds
, 432 U.S. 233, 53 L. Ed. 2d 306 (1977)
(finding sufficient evidence to distinguish Johnson
holding that "[w]hile none of these circumstances taken
individually flatly contradicts [the] defendant's statement, taken
together they are sufficient to 'throw a different light on thecircumstances of the homicide' and to impeach the defendant's
version of the incident" (quoting State v. Bright
, 237 N.C. 475,
477, 75 S.E.2d 407, 408 (1953))).
In the alternative, Defendant argues that the State's evidence
was sufficient only to raise a jury question of whether Defendant
used excessive force to defend himself from Clay's alleged attack.
This argument is also without merit. As explained above, the State
introduced substantial evidence that Defendant was the aggressor in
the altercation. Therefore, the jury was not limited to the
question of whether Defendant used permissive or excessive force in
his own self-defense. The charge of second-degree murder was
properly before the jury.
We hold that the State presented substantial evidence that
Defendant committed each element of the offense of second-degree
murder. Therefore, the trial court did not err by denying
Defendant's motion to dismiss the charge.
Judges STEPHENS and SMITH concur.
Report per Rule 30(e).
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