State v. Lopez, 363 N.C. 535 (Aug. 28, 2009)

The trial judge abused her discretion in overruling a defense objection to the State’s jury argument regarding the effect of an aggravating factor on the sentence. Although the jury’s understanding of aggravating factors is relevant to sentencing, the prosecutor’s argument introduced error because it was inaccurate and misleading. The court indicated that consistent with G.S. 7A-97, parties may explain to a jury the reasons why it is being asked to consider aggravating factors and may discuss and illustrate the general effect of finding such factors, such as the fact that a finding of an aggravating factor may allow the trial court to impose a more severe sentence or that the court may find mitigating factors and impose a more lenient sentence.