State v. Knight, ___ N.C. App. ___, 821 S.E.2d 622 (Oct. 16, 2018)

The trial court did not err by dismissing an empaneled juror. During trial the State moved for the trial court to inquire into the competency of Juror 7 to render a fair and impartial verdict. The trial court conducted a hearing in which a bailiff testified that the juror asked the bailiff “if they could have prayer during the breaks in the jury room,” and said that “he felt it was inappropriate and rude for [the District Attorney] to be pointing at people in the audience while a witness was testifying.” Upon questioning, the juror said that he did not remember making any statement pertaining to the case and agreed that he had not formed an opinion that would affect his ability to be a fair and impartial juror. Rather than dismiss the juror, the trial court gave curative instructions to the jury. Later that day, the State played audio from a jailhouse call between the defendant and his mother, revealing that the defendant’s mother knew Juror 7. The State renewed its request to dismiss the juror. The trial court again asked the juror whether he had made the comment about the district attorney being rude. The juror admitted that he could “vaguely remember” discussing the jury’s security and whether he could pray for the jury because he believed they were “in jeopardy somehow.” The trial court made findings of fact indicating that the juror provided a different response to the same question during separate hearings and ignored the trial court’s instructions. In these circumstances, the trial court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing the juror.