State v. Barnes, 226 N.C. App. 318 (Apr. 2, 2013)

In a murder case, the trial court did not violate the defendant’s constitutional right to reasonable notice of evidence or his statutory right to discovery by allowing the State to present an expert toxicologist’s testimony. As part of his investigation, Dr. Jordan, a local medical examiner, sent a specimen of the victim’s blood to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for analysis. During trial, Jordan testified to the opinion that the cause of death was methadone toxicity and that this opinion was based upon the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office’s report. When defense counsel raised questions about the report, the trial court allowed the State to call as a witness Jarod Brown, the toxicologist at the State Medical Examiner’s Officer who analyzed the victim’s blood. The defendant objected to Brown’s testimony on grounds that he had not been notified that Brown would be a witness. With respect to the alleged statutory discovery violation, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by allowing Brown to testify. The court noted that the defendant had the toxicology report for four years, had it reviewed by two experts, was afforded the opportunity to meet privately with Brown for over an hour prior to a voir dire hearing, and was afforded cross-examination on voir dire. As to the constitutional issues, the court noted that although the defendant argued that he was not afforded adequate time to prepare, he failed to show how his case would have been better prepared if he had more time or that he was materially prejudiced by Brown’s testimony. Because the defendant had the report for four years, had two experts review it, was afforded an opportunity to confer with Brown prior to his testimony, and cross-examined Brown, the defendant failed to demonstrate that a constitutional error occurred.