State v. Macon, 227 N.C.App. 152, 741 S.E.2d 688 (May. 7, 2013)

The trial court did not err when during a retrial in a DWI case it instructed the jury that it could consider the defendant’s refusal to take a breath test as evidence of her guilt even though during the first trial a different trial judge had ruled that the instruction was not supported by the evidence. Citing State v. Harris, 198 N.C. App. 371 (2009), the court held that neither collateral estoppel nor the rule prohibiting one superior court judge from overruling another applies to legal rulings in a retrial following a mistrial. It concluded that on retrial de novo, the second judge was not bound by rulings made during the first trial. Moreover, it concluded, collateral estoppel applies only to an issue of ultimate fact determined by a final judgment. Here, the first judge’s ruling involved a question of law, not fact, and there was no final judgment because of the mistrial.

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