State v. McQueen, ___ N.C. App. ___, 821 S.E.2d 272 (Oct. 2, 2018)

In this second-degree murder and armed robbery case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that trial counsel was ineffective by failing to ensure the jury knew that the State’s key witness, Damon Bell, could have been but was not charged with first-degree murder in the case. The defendant’s argument hinged on the notion that Bell’s testimony was the result of a deal or immunity agreement with the State that the jury should have been informed about. The defendant argued that he suffered prejudice because the jury did not know that Bell was receiving something of value in exchange for his testimony which might bear on his credibility. However, counsel repeatedly attempted to elicit that information on cross-examination of both Bell and a Detective. Moreover, during the charge conference counsel requested that the trial court instruct the jury on the testimony of a witness with immunity or quasi-immunity. The prosecutor adamantly maintained that there had been no discussions with Bell or his lawyer related to testifying in exchange for immunity, a reduction in sentencing, or any other concession that might undermine his credibility. The trial court denied the request for the instruction but went on to state that it would instruct the jury on the testimony of interested witnesses and accomplice testimony. The record reveals that no deal or immunity agreement with the State existed. On these facts the court rejected the ineffective assistance of counsel claim.