State v. Gidderon, COA22-681, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Jun. 6, 2023)

In this Guilford County case, defendant appealed his conviction for first-degree murder, arguing an abuse of discretion when the trial court declined to reopen voir dire of a juror who expressed concerns about the questions asked to other jurors but not her. The Court of Appeals found no abuse of discretion. 

After jury selection but before impaneling of the jury, Juror Number 6 expressed concerns to court deputies that she was not asked the same questions as other jurors during voir dire. One of the deputies brought the issue to the trial court’s attention, and the trial court called the juror in open court to ask her several questions. The court asked the juror “your concern is that some questions were asked of some jurors that perhaps were not asked of other jurors?” to which she replied, “yes.” The trial court went on to ask “[a]nd whatever this information is that you were not provided perhaps because the specific question was not asked, in your opinion, does not affect your ability to be fair; is that correct?” to which the juror responded “I don’t think so.” Slip Op. at 4. After this exchange, the trial court impaneled the jury. 

Examining the trial court’s actions, the Court of Appeals first noted that the trial court possessed discretion to conduct an inquiry into the juror’s comments, and turned to State v. Boggess, 358 N.C. 676 (2004), and State v. Adams, 285 N.C. App. 379 (2022) to establish the standards applicable to the inquiry. Looking at the substance of the inquiry, the court explained that “Juror Number 6 never expressed doubts about her impartiality, ability to serve as a juror, find the facts, and to fairly apply the law.” Slip Op. at 9. Defense counsel also failed to make any further request, as the court explained:  

The trial court provided counsel on both sides with the opportunity to request further voir dire, and both parties’ counsel expressly declined the opportunity. Defense counsel also failed to request additional voir dire when asked by the trial court and waived the right to challenge the issue on appeal.

Id. As a result, the court found no abuse of discretion in the actions of the trial court.