State v. Privette, 218 N.C. App. 459 (Feb. 7, 2012)

(1) The trial court erred by admitting evidence concerning the history of the Bloods gang and the activities of various Bloods subsets. The court noted that “[e]vidence of gang membership is generally inadmissible unless it is relevant to the issue of guilt.” Here, the court was unable to determine how the evidence was relevant and concluded that its effect “was to depict a ‘violent’ gang subculture of which [the defendant] was a part and to impermissibly portray [the defendant] as having acted in accordance with gang-related proclivities.” (2) The trial court did not err by allowing evidence about the hierarchy of gang structure when evidence regarding the defendant’s position in the gang was relevant to the extortion-related charges. The evidence helped explain why the defendant thought that he could induce a third party to confess to a robbery; placed into context his statements that the third party would be murdered if he did not turn himself in; and helped explain the third party’s decision to confess. (3) The trial court did not err by admitting photographs of the defendant’s tattoos and related testimony describing the relationship between some of these tattoos and Bloods symbols where that evidence also explained the defendant’s position in gang hierarchy (see discussion above). (4) Evidence of a telephone call between the defendant and his wife in which he described violent acts he would perform on her if she were a man was not relevant and had little purpose other than to show the defendant’s violent propensities.