State v. Hauser, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (May. 19, 2020)

The defendant was convicted of obtaining property by false pretenses for selling boxes purportedly containing iPhones that contained only lug nuts. At trial, the prosecutor tried to use the video system to display to the jury a photo of the vehicle driven by the defendant, which the judge had admitted without objection. Instead, the prosecutor inadvertently showed an image of the defendant with several phones in his hand while wearing gold necklaces and standing in front of a mirror, an image similar to a photo the trial judge had ruled inadmissible under North Carolina Rule of Evidence 403. Once defense counsel noticed the image and objected, the prosecutor apologized and disconnected the display. The trial judge denied the defendant’s motion for a mistrial and instead gave a limiting instruction telling the jury to disregard anything that might have just flashed up on the screen. After considering the nature of the evidence and the circumstances of the defendant’s case, the Court of Appeals held that the defendant did not overcome the presumption that the jury was able to understand and comply with the trial judge’s limiting instruction and that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying a mistrial.