RALEIGH (AP) A registered sex offender found guilty of exposing himself to a North Carolina woman and her 4-year-old son was granted a new trial July 17 after an appeals court found a procedural problem with his felony conviction.
The state Court of Appeals ordered the new trial for Neil Wayne Hoyle because it ruled the jury should have received special instructions on how to weigh whether the younger victim could see the defendant expose himself. One member of the three-judge panel dissented from the decision.
The 47-year-old was convicted of misdemeanor and felony counts of indecent exposure after authorities say he exposed himself in 2016 to the mother while she stood beside the car he was driving. The proximity of the 4-year-old boy, who was playing in his yard 14 feet (4 meters) away, prompted the felony charge that formed the basis for Hoyle’s nearly 2-year sentence.
At the time, Hoyle was already a registered sex offender who had been found guilty of failing to report a North Carolina address change. He had been convicted of rape in Kansas in the 1990s.
The North Carolina indecent exposure occurred as the woman was unloading groceries at her Hickory home while her son swung from a tree in their yard, according to court documents. Hoyle pulled up in a car, asked for directions and then offered to do repairs on the home in the western part of the state.
The woman declined his offer several times, but he insisted on giving her his business card. The woman agreed to take it, hoping he would leave. When she reached into the car, she saw that he had his hand in his crotch and was exposing himself, the judges wrote.
“The mother could hear defendant laugh and drive away as she gathered herself, grabbed her son, and ran into the house,” the ruling said.
She then used a business card he left behind to help authorities identify him. The mother later testified that she didn’t think the child saw what Hoyle was doing when he exposed himself.
On appeal, Hoyle argued the jury should have received instructions that North Carolina courts have defined the “presence” of a child during indecent exposure to mean the victim was not only nearby, but also able to see the offense. The judge overseeing Hoyle’s trial declined to make the special instruction to jurors as they began deliberating.
Appeals Judges John Arrowood and Ann Calabria ruled in the majority opinion that jurors should have received special instructions on how to weigh the child’s presence and whether he could see what happened.
Writing for the majority, Arrowood said it’s likely that “the jury considered only the child’s proximity … because, absent the requested instruction, there was no reason for the jury to consider whether the child could have seen the alleged exposure.”
“Thus, defendant was prejudiced by the omission of the requested instruction,” Arrowood wrote.
But the third appeals panel member, Judge Hunter Murphy, disagreed and wrote the trial court had no obligation to add to standard jury instructions on indecent exposure.
An attorney for Hoyle didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.