State v. Hayes, 239 N.C. App. 539 (Mar. 3, 2015)

In this homicide case where the defendant was charged with murdering his wife, that the trial court did not err by allowing the State’s expert witness pathologists to testify that the victim’s cause of death was “homicide[.]” It concluded:

The pathologists in this case were tendered as experts in the field of forensic pathology. A review of their testimony makes clear that they used the words “homicide by unde[te]rmined means” and “homicidal violence” within the context of their functions as medical examiners, not as legal terms of art, to describe how the cause of death was homicidal (possibly by asphyxia by strangulation or repeated stabbing) instead of death by natural causes, disease, or accident. Their ultimate opinion was proper and supported by sufficient evidence, including injury to the victim’s fourth cervical vertebra, sharp force injury to the neck, stab wounds, and damage to certain “tissue and thyroid cartilage[.]” Accordingly, the trial court did not err by admitting the pathologists’ testimony.