State v. Graham, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (Mar. 17, 2020)

aff'd on other grounds, ___ N.C. ___, 2021-NCSC-125 (Oct. 29, 2021)

The defendant was charged with four counts of engaging in sexual acts against a child under 13 and taking indecent liberties with a child. The defendant was alleged to have touched a child, A.M.D., in sexual manner on several occasions over a period of one to two years. The state’s evidence at trial consisted primarily of testimony from the victim, A.M.D., and corroborating testimony from other witnesses to whom she had disclosed the abuse. The state dismissed some of the charges prior to verdict, and the jury ultimately convicted the defendant of one count of sexual offense against a child under age 13.

Defendant filed an MAR seeking a new trial, based on the victim recanting her testimony. At a hearing on the MAR, the victim testified that she lied about the abuse at trial due to bribes and threats from another person. The trial judge denied the MAR, but failed to make sufficient findings of fact resolving the conflicts in the victim’s testimony between the trial and the MAR hearing. The trial court “abused its discretion by failing to expressly find which version of events it believed to be true,” so the matter was remanded with instructions to enter a new order making clear findings. Dissenting as to this part of the decision, J. Bryant would have found that the judge’s order was sufficient, since the defendant had the burden of proof at the hearing and the trial judge made a finding that the defense had not met that burden by stating she was “not satisfied that the testimony given by [A.M.D.] at the trial on this matter in December 2016 was false.”