State v. Dover, ___ N.C. ___, 2022-NCSC-76 (Jun. 17, 2022)

In this Rowan County case, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and determined that there was sufficient circumstantial evidence in the record to support denial of defendant’s motion to dismiss charges of robbery and first-degree murder.

At trial, evidence was admitted that defendant worked with the victim, had recently asked the victim for money (a request the victim denied), was in possession of a large amount of cash hidden in a suspicious manner, lied to police officers about his whereabouts on the night of the crime, and used his cellphone in the vicinity of the victim’s residence. Defendant’s motion to dismiss rested on the lack of direct evidence tying defendant to the crime, as no evidence directly showed that defendant entered the victim’s residence or stabbed the victim, and no evidence connected the cash in defendant’s possession directly to the victim.

The Supreme Court determined that the circumstantial evidence was sufficient to support the inference that defendant had the motive, opportunity, and means to commit the robbery and murder of the victim. The Court concluded that it was appropriate for the trial court to deny the motion to dismiss and permit the jury to act as factfinder on the ultimate question of guilt or innocence. Because the Court of Appeals did not rule on the denial of defendant’s motion for a mistral, that issue was remanded for consideration.

Justice Hudson, joined by Justice Earls, dissented from the opinion and objected to the majority’s analysis regarding the sufficiency of the circumstantial evidence in the record to support defendant’s convictions.