State v. Orellana, ___ N.C. App. ___, 817 S.E.2d 480 (Jun. 19, 2018)

(1) In this indecent liberties with a child case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court committed plain error by allowing the victim’s mother to vouch for the victim’s credibility. An individual informed the victim’s mother that the victim said that the defendant had touched her inappropriately. The victim was still asleep at the time this exchange took place. The victim’s mother testified as follows:

I knew that my daughter would tell me the truth because that’s what I had instilled in her. So I was debating on whether to wake her up. I didn’t want to traumatize her. I didn’t want to scare her. I knew that when she would come to me at that moment when I asked her that she would tell me the truth.

In sum, the court noted, the victim’s mother testified that she believed that her daughter was truthful in her accusations. Assuming arguendo admission of this testimony was improper, the defendant failed to show that the jury probably would have reached a different result absent the error.

(2) The court rejected the defendant’s argument that a detective’s testimony improperly vouched for the victim’s credibility. Here, the detective testified about his observation of the victim’s demeanor during his interview with her. The detective testified as follows:

Her responses seemed to be thoughtful. She paused several times while telling the story, just trying to recollect, and with each account she looked at the ground or looked downward several times, seemed to be genuinely affected by what had occurred.

The court rejected the notion that this testimony was the functional equivalent of vouching for the victim’s credibility, finding instead that it “contains precisely the type of ‘instantaneous conclusions’ that our Supreme Court considers to be admissible ‘shorthand statements of fact.’”