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Criminal Practice – Armed Robbery – Victim’s Testimony – Gang Affiliation – Relevance

The victim of an armed robbery could testify about defendants’ alleged gang affiliation in order to explain why he (the victim) carried a handgun after having engaged in a fistfight with defendant Randolph and having a different gun stolen from him.

We find no error or plain error in defendants’ convictions of robbery with a dangerous weapon, possession of a firearm by a felon, and attaining habitual felon status. We dismiss defendant Griffin’s appeal of the trial court’s order requiring him to pay his court-appointed attorney’s fees.

The victim’s gang testimony was not for the purpose of depicting a violent gang subculture, but rather to shed light on facts that were of consequence to the determination of his guilt. The testimony helped explain the victim’s reservations toward defendants; why he started carrying his 9-millimeter handgun following his fight with Randolph; why he believed that defendant Griffin had stolen his chrome .25-caliber handgun; why Randolph and Griffin suspected the victim had a handgun; why his personal belongings were stolen while he and Randolph were fighting a year before; why Griffin was present with Randolph during the robbery in the victim’s car; and why the suspected that witness Shawn Cradle was acting in concert with defendants.

The victim’s initial gang testimony spanned only a few questions and he stated on cross-examination that he had never seen defendants do “gang things,” nor did he testify with any specificity how he knew of their alleged gang affiliation. Witnesses Cradle and Shawn Bryant testified that defendants were not gang members. While Cradle contradicted the victim’s testimony regarding the robbery, the jury could have viewed Cradle’s testimony as biased not because of gang affiliation but because Cradle was related to Randolph.

Where defendant Griffin neither gave written notice of appeal nor petitioned for a writ of certiorari, the issue of the order requiring him to pay $2,475 in attorney’s fees is not properly before us.

No error in part, dismissed in part.

State v. Griffin (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-107-20, 10 pp.) (Lucy Inman, J.) Appealed from Beaufort County Superior Court (Cy Grant, J.) Oliver Wheeler and William Smith for the state; Stephen Driggers and Mark Hayes for defendants. N.C. App. Unpub.

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