State v. Berry, 368 N.C. 90 (Jun. 11, 2015)

In this child sexual assault case and for the reasons stated in the dissenting opinion below, the supreme court reversed State v. Berry, 235 N.C. App. 496 (2014), which had held that the trial court did not express an opinion on a question of fact to be decided by the jury in violation of G.S. 15A-1222 or express an opinion as to whether a fact had been proved in violation of G.S. 15A-1232 when instructing the jury on how to consider a stipulation. In the opinion below the dissenting judge believed that the trial court’s instruction could have been reasonably interpreted by the jury as a mandate to accept certain disputed facts in violation of G.S. 15A-1222 and 15A-1232. The stipulation at issue concerned a report by a clinical social worker who had interviewed the victim; in it the parties agreed to let redacted portions of her report come in for the purpose of corroborating the victim’s testimony. The dissenting judge interpreted the trial court’s instructions to the jury as requiring them to accept the social worker’s report as true.