State v. Cox, 367 N.C. 147 (Nov. 8, 2013)

The court reversed the decision below, State v. Cox, 222 N.C. App. 192 (2012), which had found insufficient evidence to support a conviction of felon in possession of a firearm under the corpus delicti rule. The defendant confessed to possession of a firearm recovered by officers ten to twelve feet from a car in which he was a passenger. The Supreme Court held that under the “Parker rule” the confession was supported by substantial independent evidence tending to establish its trustworthiness and that therefore the corpus delicti rule was satisfied. The court noted that after a Chevrolet Impala attempted to avoid a DWI checkpoint by pulling into a residential driveway, the driver fled on foot as a patrol car approached. The officer observed that the defendant was one of three remaining passengers in the car. Officers later found the firearm in question within ten to twelve feet of the driver’s open door. Even though the night was cool and the grass was wet, the firearm was dry and warm, indicating that it came from inside the car. The court determined that these facts strongly corroborated essential facts and circumstances embraced in the defendant’s confession and linked the defendant temporally and spatially to the firearm. The court went on to note that the defendant made no claim that his confession was obtained by deception or coercion, or was a result of physical or mental infirmity. It continued, concluding that the trustworthiness of the confession was “further bolstered by the evidence that defendant made a voluntary decision to confess.”