State v. Shaw, ___ N.C. App. ___, 816 S.E.2d 248 (May. 15, 2018)

The trial court erred by denying the defendant’s motion for post-conviction DNA testing and discovery pursuant to G.S. 15A-269. The defendant was tried for burglary, kidnapping, assault by strangulation, rape, sex offense, and attaining habitual felon status. Evidence at trial included, among other things, testimony from the State’s expert in forensic DNA analysis concerning DNA evidence recovered from the victim. The DNA analyst concluded that defendant’s DNA “cannot be excluded as a contributor to the DNA mixture” that was recovered, and that “the chance of selecting an individual at random that would be expected to be included for the observed DNA mixture profile” was approximately, “for the North Carolina black population, 1 in 14.5 million[.]” The defendant was convicted and his conviction was affirmed on direct appeal. He then filed a pro se motion with the trial court under G.S. 15A-269 and included a sworn affidavit maintaining his innocence. The trial court treated the motion as a Motion for Appropriate Relief (MAR) and denied the motion. It determined that the defendant had not complied with the service and filing requirements for MARs, did not allege newly discovered evidence or other genuine issues that would require a hearing, and that the claims were procedurally barred under the MAR statute. The Court of Appeals granted the defendant’s petition for writ of certiorari and reversed. The court noted that the procedures for post-conviction DNA testing pursuant to G.S. 15A-269 are distinct from those that apply to MARs. Thus, when a defendant brings a motion for post-conviction DNA testing pursuant to G.S. 15A-269, the trial court must rule on the motion in accordance with the statutes that apply to that type of motion. The trial court may not supplant those procedures with procedures applicable to MARs. The court vacated and remanded for the trial court’s review consistent with the relevant statutes.