State v. Teague (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-07-1017, 23 pp.) (Donna S. Stroud, J.) Appealed from Randolph County Superior Court. (R. Stuart Albright, J.) N.C. App. Click here for the full-text opinion.
Holding: The state presented enough evidence of defendant’s intent to kill to reach the jury on a charge of attempted murder: the day that defendant was told to leave the victims’ residence by their daughter-in-law, defendant drove to Walmart and bought a pair of binoculars and a knife; eventually returned to the victims’ residence; laid near the residence watching them with his binoculars; when Maranda — defendant’s teenage wife — and the victims went to bed, he entered the residence and cut both of the victims multiple times in the neck while they were asleep.
The evidence further showed that the victims did not provoke defendant as they made no threats or actions against defendant. Even though defendant felt that the victims were keeping him from Maranda, Maranda did not want to leave with defendant as she was almost nine months pregnant and defendant had no place for them to live.
Defendant told Maranda “if [she] didn’t tell him the truth he was gonna kill [her], too,” and later said “he was gonna kill [them] all.” Also, defendant ordered the victims to get into the bathtub, telling them, “I should have just finished what I started.”
Defendant used a knife to make multiple deep cuts to the victims’ necks while they were asleep, which required numerous stitches to repair, and cut victim Burke from his ear to the corner of his mouth, severing a main artery and causing extensive bleeding. Finally, defendant also prevented the victims from seeking medical treatment for approximately 45 minutes while they bled severely from their wounds.
We find no error in defendant’s convictions of two counts of attempted first-degree murder, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and larceny of a motor vehicle.
In its closing statement, the state argued that defendant committed the acts at issue with the intent to kill, premeditation, and deliberation. The prosecutor compared the victims to sheep that did not provoke any attack and defendant to a predator who had a plan to “come in the middle of the night” and “try to kill” the victims.
Comparisons between criminal defendants and animals are strongly disfavored, but, as the state has wide latitude in jury argument, we hold that the state’s closing argument did not rise to the level of being so grossly improper as to require the trial court to intervene ex mero motu.