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

The evidence was sufficient with respect to the defendant’s voluntary manslaughter conviction. The defendant was charged with first-degree murder. At trial the defendant admitted that he shot and killed his wife. He argued however that as a result of diabetes, his blood sugar was dangerously low at the time of the shooting, causing him to act in a manner that was not voluntary. The defendant moved for a directed verdict on the first-degree murder charges as well as the lesser charges of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. The judge denied this motion and the jury found him guilty of voluntary manslaughter. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that acting in the “heat of passion” was an element of voluntary manslaughter, noting that for this offense the State need only prove that the defendant killed the victim by an intentional and unlawful act and that the defendant’s act was a proximate cause of death. Here, the defendant admitted that he shot his wife. His sole defense was that he did not act voluntarily due to low blood sugar, which put him in a state of automatism. The State presented expert testimony that he was not in such a state. Thus, there was substantial evidence from which the jury could reject the defendant’s automatism defense and conclude that the defendant intentionally shot and killed his wife—the only elements necessary to prove voluntary manslaughter.