State v. Oldroyd, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (May. 19, 2020)

The defendant was indicted in 2013 for first-degree murder, attempted armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit murder for crimes committed in 1996. Pursuant to a plea agreement, the defendant pled guilty in June 2014 to a reduced charge of second-degree murder, attempted armed robbery, and conspiracy to commit robbery, for which he received a consolidated sentence of 120 to 153 months. In June 2015, the defendant filed a motion for appropriate relief claiming that the indictment for attempted armed robbery was fatally defective by failing to name any victim. The trial judge denied the motion, and the defendant petitioned for a writ of certiorari. (1) A majority of the Court of Appeals ruled that the indictment was fatally defective and did not provide the trial court with jurisdiction to enter judgment on the defendant’s guilty plea to attempted armed robbery. The Court recognized that armed robbery is a crime against the person. Like common law robbery, it involves the taking of money or goods from the person or presence of another by violence or intimidation. The only difference is the use of a firearm or other dangerous weapon. Indictments for such crimes must specifically name the victim. The Court held that attempted armed robbery is indistinguishable from the completed crime in terms of the subject matter and the victim must be specifically named in the indictment. The indictment in this case alleged the victims as employees of the Huddle House. Relying on prior decisions, including the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Scott, 237 N.C. 432 (1953), the Court ruled that this allegation was not sufficient to satisfy the requirement that the victim be specifically named. A dissenting judge would have found the indictment sufficient because the allegation that the defendant was attempting to steal property from the employees of Huddle House was sufficient to show that the defendant was taking others’ property and the allegation that the lives of the employees were threatened or endangered by the defendant’s possession of a firearm was sufficient to put him on notice of the manner and means by which the crime was perpetrated. (2) The Court of Appeals rejected the requested remedy of vacating his conviction for attempted armed robbery. The Court held that by successfully moving to vacate the judgment for armed robbery, the Court was obliged to vacate the whole plea agreement. The Court observed that the parties may enter into a new plea agreement or the State may proceed to trial on the charges, including attempted armed robbery pursuant to a new indictment.