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

In this first-degree murder case, the trial court did not abuse its discretion under Rule 403 by admitting the victim’s skeletal remains, specifically her skull, ribs, and femur. The court considered each set of bones, starting with the skull. It noted that admission of a homicide victim’s skull was an issue of first impression. Generally, however, evidence used to identify a victim is relevant and admissible at trial. Here, the State argued, in part, that it needed witness Curtis, who found the skull, to identify it so that other witnesses could identify other pertinent bones. Curtis positively identified the skull as the one he found in the woods, based on the front teeth. Here, the skull is relevant to the State’s case, illustrated Curtis’s testimony, and was properly admitted under Rule 403.

            As to the rib bones, the court noted that evidence showing the nature and number of the victim’s injuries is probative. Here, the State used the rib bones to illustrate the victim’s injuries, which the medical examiner concluded caused death. They thus were more probative than prejudicial and were properly admitted under Rule 403.

            Considering the femur, the court noted that biological items used in DNA testing generally are admissible. Here, the State used the femur to establish the identity of the victim through DNA testing and it was properly admitted under Rule 403.