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Criminal Practice – Constitutional – Confrontation Right – Leniency for Witness

Where (1) Lakenda Malachi was the state’s principal eyewitness and the only eyewitness to the shooting of the victim, (2) the only other evidence presented by the state was tenuous, and (3) the trial court restricted defendant’s cross-examination of Malachi as to any leniency she expected (with respect to drug charges against her) in exchange for her testimony, defendant was deprived of his constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him, and this constitutional violation was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.

Defendant is entitled to a new trial.

Dissent

(Dillon, J.) The trial court allowed the witness to say she did not “know anything about” whether the state would offer her leniency in exchange for her testimony. The trial court simply did not allow the witness to state whether she “hoped” or “thought” she would receive leniency. Further, the witness testified that all she hoped to gain from testifying was “justice” for her boyfriend, who was the victim.

Defendant received a fair trial, free from reversible error.

State v. Bowman (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-253-18, 13 pp.) (Lucy Inman, J.) Appealed from Forsyth County Superior Court (Richard Gottlieb, J.) Joseph Hyde for the state; Richard Croutharmel for defendant. N.C. App.

 

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