State v. Heavner, 227 N.C. App. 139 (May. 7, 2013)

Although the trial court erred by admitting in a motion for appropriate relief (MAR) hearing a juror’s testimony about the impact on his deliberations of his conversation with the defendant’s mother during trial, the trial court’s findings supported its determination that there was no reasonable possibility the juror was affected by the extraneous information. After the defendant was found guilty it came to light that his mother, Ms. Elmore, spoke with a juror during trial. The defendant filed a MAR alleging that he did not receive a fair trial based on this contact. At the MAR hearing, the juror admitted that a conversation took place but said that he did not take it into account in arriving at a verdict. The trial court denied the MAR. Although it was error for the trial court to consider the juror’s mental processes regarding the extraneous information, the judge’s unchallenged findings of fact supported its conclusion that there was no reasonable possibility that the juror could have been affected by the information. The court noted that the juror testified that Elmore said only that her son was in trouble and that she was there to support him; she never said what the trouble was, told the juror her son’s name, or specified his charges.