State v. Seelig, 226 N.C. App. 147 (Mar. 19, 2013)

In a case in which the defendant was charged with obtaining property by false pretenses for selling products alleged to be gluten free but which in fact contained gluten, the trial court did not err by allowing an ill witness to testify by way of a two-way, live, closed-circuit web broadcast. The witness testified regarding the results of laboratory tests he performed on samples of the defendant's products. The trial court conducted a hearing and found that the witness had a history of panic attacks, had suffered a severe panic attack on the day he was scheduled to fly from Nebraska to North Carolina for trial, was hospitalized as a result, and was unable to travel to North Carolina because of his medical condition. Applying the test of Maryland v. Craig, the court found these findings sufficient to establish that allowing the witness to testify remotely was necessary to meet an important state interest of protecting the witness’s ill health. Turning to Craig’s second requirement, the court found that reliability of the witness’s testimony was otherwise assured, noting, among other things that the witness testified under oath and was subjected to cross-examination. [Author’s note: For an extensive discussion of the use of remote testimony at trial, see my paper here.]