State v. Houser, 239 N.C. App. 410 (Feb. 17, 2015)

Although the trial court erred by failing to fully comply with the statutory requirements regarding a charge conference at the sentencing phase of this felony child abuse case, no material prejudice resulted. The court noted that G.S. 15A-1231(b) requires the trial court to hold a charge conference, regardless of whether a party requests one, before instructing the jury on aggravating factors during the sentencing phase of a non-capital case. Here, the trial court informed the parties of the aggravating factors that it would charge, gave counsel a general opportunity to be heard at the charge conference, and gave counsel an opportunity to object at the close of the instructions. However, because the trial court failed to inform counsel of the instructions that it would provide the jury, it deprived the parties of the opportunity to know what instructions would be given, and thus did not comply fully with the statute.