State v. Sharpless (Lawyers Weekly No. 12-07-0605, 21 pp.) (Douglas McCullough, J.) Appealed from New Hanover County Superior Court. (Kenneth F. Crow, J.) N.C. App. Full-text opinion.
Holding: Defendant had a crime scene technician testify that he collected clothing from where defendant was located, consisting of a black shirt and black hoodie, while the police’s “be on the lookout” description was for a red hoodie or sweater. The state contends that, by creating the impression that the police had not developed or received any information leading them to view defendant as a suspect, defendant opened the door to admission of the substance of an anonymous 911 call, i.e., that defendant was involved in the crime. While defendant may have opened the door to the admission of further evidence regarding his potential involvement in the robbery, defendant did not open the door to the admission of such hearsay.
Defendant is entitled to a new trial.
The state admitted that the anonymous phone call amounted to hearsay, yet it still elicited evidence regarding the call for the truth of the matter asserted. The anonymous tip included allegations that defendant was part of a trio involved in a particular narcotics robbery, but there was no other evidence to substantiate these claims. The state could have elicited evidence that there was an anonymous call that rebutted the initial BOLO, but we believe it was prejudicial for the state to elicit the substance of the call, which improperly created an image for the jury of defendant as a person involved in a narcotics robbery gone awry. Thus, the trial court abused its discretion in allowing the admission of the substance of the anonymous call over defendant’s objection such that there is a probability that the jury might have otherwise reached a different verdict.
Even though a witness did not see the murder victim’s initial encounter with defendant at the victim’s door, the witness heard the encounter and was properly allowed to testify as to his impression of the victim’s reaction.