State v. Coleman, ___ N.C. App. ___, 803 S.E.2d 820 (Jul. 18, 2017)

In this homicide case, the trial court did not commit plain error in its jury instructions on the defense of automatism. The defendant argued that the jury instruction misleadingly implied that he had to prove the defense beyond a reasonable doubt. The trial court’s instructions, which were almost entirely a verbatim recitation of the Pattern Jury Instructions, explained the proper burden of proof for the defense as well as the principle that if the jury found that the defendant had met his burden of proving the defense he would be not guilty of any crime. The instructions explicitly stated that the defendant’s burden was “to establish this defense to the satisfaction of the jury,” unlike the State, which must prove all the other elements beyond a reasonable doubt.