State v. Blankenship, ___ N.C. App. ___, 814 S.E.2d 901 (Apr. 17, 2018)

temp. stay granted, ___ N.C. ___, 812 S.E.2d 666 (May. 3, 2018)

In this child sexual assault case, the trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss charges of statutory sexual offense and indecent liberties with a child where the State failed to satisfy the corpus delecti rule. Here, the only substantive evidence was the defendant’s confession. Thus, the dispositive question is whether the confession was supported by substantial independent evidence tending to establish its trustworthiness, including facts tending to show that the defendant had the opportunity to commit the crime. In this case, the defendant had ample opportunity to commit the crimes; as the victim’s father, he often spent time alone with the victim at their home. Thus, the defendant’s opportunity corroborates the essential facts embedded in the confession. However, the confession did not corroborate any details related to the crimes likely to be known by the perpetrator. In out-of-court statements, the victim told others “Daddy put weiner in coochie.” However, the defendant denied that allegation throughout his confession. He confessed to other inappropriate sexual acts but did not confess to this specific activity. Also, the defendant’s confession did not fit within a pattern of sexual misconduct. Additionally, the confession was not corroborated by the victim’s extrajudicial statements. Although the defendant confessed to touching the victim inappropriately and watching pornography with her, he did not confess to raping her. Thus, the State failed to prove strong corroboration of essential facts and circumstances. The court noted that although the defendant spoke of watching pornography with the victim, investigators did not find pornography on his computer. The court thus determined that the State failed to satisfy the corpus delecti rule. It went on to reject the State’s argument that even without the defendant’s confession, there was sufficient evidence that the defendant was the perpetrator of the crimes.