State v. Enoch, ___ N.C. App. ___, 820 S.E.2d 543 (Sept. 18, 2018)

In this non-capital first-degree murder case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by preventing the defendant from rehabilitating a juror. During jury selection, the State questioned prospective juror Terrance Copling, who said he was familiar with the defendant’s family, did not know the defendant personally, and could be impartial and fair to both sides. However, when pressed by the State, Copling admitted that his connection to the defendant’s father would “probably cause issues.” The State moved to dismiss Copling for cause. The trial court denied the defendant’s request to rehabilitate and upon questioning by the trial court Copling indicated that because of his connection to the defendant’s family he could not be impartial. The trial court allowed the State’s challenge for cause and excused Copling over the defendant’s objection. The defendant also wanted to rehabilitate prospective juror Clapp, believing that the State’s questions had confused her. The trial court rejected this request and excused Clapp for cause. The defendant was convicted and appealed. The court reasoned that in non-capital cases the trial court has discretion regarding whether to allow rehabilitation during voir dire. Here, although the trial court initially told the defendant that rehabilitation was not permissible in a non-capital case, the trial court later allowed for the possibility of rehabilitation and thus did not establish a blanket ruling against all rehabilitation. It further found that the trial court properly exercised its discretion by denying the defendant’s request to rehabilitate jurors.