State v. Martin, 244 N.C. App. 727 (Jan. 5, 2016)

(1) Because the defendant’s motion for appropriate relief (MAR) alleging ineffective assistance of counsel in this sexual assault case raised disputed issues of fact, the trial court erred by failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing before denying relief. The defendant claimed that counsel was ineffective by failing to, among other things, obtain a qualified medical expert to rebut testimony by a sexual abuse nurse examiner and failing to properly cross-examine the State’s witnesses. The defendant’s motion was supported by an affidavit from counsel admitting the alleged errors and stating that none were strategic decisions. The court concluded that these failures “could have had a substantial impact on the jury’s verdict” and thus the defendant was entitled to an evidentiary hearing. The case was one of “he said, she said,” with no physical evidence of rape. The absence of any signs of violence provided defense counsel an opportunity to contradict the victim’s allegations with a medical expert, an opportunity he failed to take. Additionally, trial counsel failed to expose, through cross-examination, the fact that investigators failed to collect key evidence. For example, they did not test, collect, or even ask the victim about a used condom and condom wrapper found in the bedroom. Given counsel’s admission that his conduct was not the product of a strategic decision, an evidentiary hearing was required. (2) With respect to the defendant’s claim that the trial court erred by denying his motion before providing him with post-conviction discovery pursuant to G.S. 15A-1415(f), the court remanded for the trial court to address whether the State had complied with its post-conviction discovery obligations.