State v. Saunders, 239 N.C. App. 434 (Feb. 17, 2015)

In this rape case involving an 82-year-old victim, the court rejected defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by failing to instruct the jury that it could not use the same evidence to find both the element of mental injury for first-degree rape and the aggravating factor that the victim was very old. The defendant argued that the jury may have relied on evidence about ongoing emotional suffering and behavioral changes experienced by the victim after the rape to find both an element of the offense and the aggravating factor. Rejecting this argument the court noted that evidence established that after the rape the victim suffered mental and emotional consequences that extended for a time well beyond the attack itself. The court further explained, in part: “These after-effects of the crime were the evidence that the jury considered in finding that the victim suffered a serious personal injury, an element of first-degree rape. None of the evidence regarding the lingering negative impact of the rape on the victim’s emotional well-being was specifically related to her age.” (citation omitted).