But it’s there, right off East Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, near the Carolina Coffee Shop. About a half-block long, it dead-ends into a small university-owned parking lot behind the former Porthole restaurant.
Under G.S. § 14-269.2(b), weapons are not allowed on educational property. So when two University of North Carolina police officers were patrolling the tiny parking lot and saw a parked car with a box of ammunition on the seat and small handgun on the floorboard, they waited until the car’s owner returned.
Four months later, the defendant – a 22-year-old locksmith who had been sharing a meal with a friend on Franklin Street – was a convicted felon.
In State v. Minton, the N.C. Court of Appeals last week upheld the Orange County Superior Court jury’s verdict, rejecting the arguments from the state appellate defender’s office that the officers’ testimony that the parking lot was university property was hearsay, and that the jury should have been allowed to hear more about the effects of a felony conviction.
Those effects, of course, are pretty severe. In this case, however, the court found the defense may have strayed too far from a simple statement of the possible punishment.
At the close of the jury trial, the defense counsel listed jobs held by the defendant – including locksmith and construction worker – and noted that those jobs demand trust because they required him to enter other people’s property.
The trial court sustained the state’s objections to statements such as, “Being a felon in this country means you can’t be trusted,” and “It changes your rights; it changes your status.”
The defense contends he was exercising his right to inform the jury of the punishment that might be imposed. But the court said the law does not support a discussion of “social implications that may be associated with that sentence.”
”Counsel was asking for a verdict of not guilty, not because the elements of the crime were not met, but because the indirect consequences of the statutory punishment were too severe in light of defendant’s behavior,” the appeals panel wrote.
- By SYLVIA ADCOCK, Staff Writer