State v. Daughtridge, ___ N.C. App. ___, 789 S.E.2d 667 (Aug. 2, 2016)

In this murder and possession of a firearm by a felon case, the trial court did not commit plain error by allowing the admission of an investigator’s testimony concerning the defendant’s demeanor. At trial, the investigator, who had interviewed the defendant, was asked to clarify why he thought that the defendant’s earlier statement didn’t “add up.” The investigator noted the defendant’s demeanor testifying, among other things, that the defendant did not express emotion when talking about his wife’s alleged suicide. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the statements constituted impermissible lay opinions under Rule 701. Rather, it concluded that in context, the investigator was simply explaining the steps he took in his ongoing investigation; his statements expressing skepticism over the defendant’s account served merely to provide context explaining his rationale for subjecting the defendant to further scrutiny. The court further rejected the defendant’s argument that the investigator’s testimony regarding certain text messages sent from the victim’s phone also constituted improper lay opinion testimony. The investigator examined these messages to determine whether the victim’s death was a suicide. Like the investigator’s other testimony, this testimony provided context for his decision-making regarding the investigation; his testimony explained why he conducted a homicide investigation rather than concluding that the victim’s death was a suicide. Regarding the investigator’s testimony that the defendant “was deceptive,” the court concluded that because the statements were elicited by the defense on cross examination the invited error doctrine applied.