State v. Hyman, 371 N.C. 363 (Aug. 17, 2018)

(1) On review of a divided panel of the Court of Appeals, ___ N.C. App. ___, 797 S.E.2d 308 (2017), in this murder case, the court affirmed the holding of the Court of Appeals that the defendant’s ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) claim was not procedurally barred under G.S. 15A-1419(a)(3) (a claim asserted in a MAR must be denied if, upon a previous appeal, the defendant was in a position to adequately raise the ground or issue underlying the present motion but did not do so). To be subject to the G.S. 15A-1419(a)(3) procedural default bar, the direct appeal record must contain sufficient information to permit the reviewing court to make all the factual and legal determinations necessary to allow a proper resolution of the claim. Here, the defendant was not in a position to adequately raise the IAC claim on direct appeal. A Strickland IAC claim requires a defendant to show both deficient performance and prejudice. The nature of the defendant’s claim would have required him to establish that his attorney was in a position to provide favorable testimony on his behalf, that her failure to withdraw from representing the defendant in order to testify on his behalf constituted deficient performance, and if she had acted as he asserts she should have, there is a reasonable probability that he would not have been found guilty of murder. Here, the defendant would have been unable to make a viable showing based on the evidentiary record developed at trial.

(2) Reversing the Court of Appeals, the court found that the record contains adequate evidentiary support for the trial court’s findings that the factual basis for the defendant’s IAC claim did not exist. The defendant’s IAC claim alleged that his lawyer should have withdrawn from representing him at trial and testified on his behalf with respect to a conversation that she had with a witness. The trial court found as a fact that the defendant presented no credible evidence during the MAR hearing that the alleged conversation between defense counsel and the witness ever took place. After reviewing the evidence presented before the trial court, the court found that the record contains sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s finding of fact that the alleged conversation never occurred.