State v. Dark, 204 N.C. App. 591 (Jun. 15, 2010)

The trial court did not err by denying the defendant’s motion to disclose the identity of a confidential informant in a drug case. The informant set up a drug transaction between an officer and the defendant, accompanied the officer during the transaction, but was not involved in it. When deciding whether disclosure of a confidential informant’s identity is warranted, the trial court must balance the government’s need to protect an informant’s identity (to promote disclosure of crimes) with the defendant’s right to present his or her case. However, the trial court is not required to engage in balancing until the defendant makes a sufficient showing that the circumstances mandate disclosure. Factors weighing in favor of disclosure are that the informer was a participant in the crime, and that the evidence contradicts on material facts that the informant could clarify. Factors weighing against disclosure include whether the defendant admits culpability, offers no defense on the merits, and whether evidence independent of the informer’s testimony establishes guilt. Here, only the informant’s presence and role in arranging the transaction favor disclosure. The defendant failed to forecast how the informant’s identity could provide useful information to clarify any contradiction in the evidence. Moreover, the informant’s testimony was not admitted at trial; instead, the officers’ testimony established guilt. The defendant did not carry his burden of showing that the facts mandate disclosure of the informant’s identity.