State v. Sheridan, ___ N.C. App. ___, 824 S.E.2d 146 (Feb. 5, 2019)

In this child sexual assault case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the trial court erred by denying his motion for mistrial when an expert witness mentioned the defendant as “a person who had a history of criminality.” Dr. Elizabeth Witman, the director of SAFEchild Advocacy Center, testified about the victim’s medical evaluation and diagnostic interview. When asked whether she had any concerns about the victim’s biological family, Witman replied said that she did, stating, in part, that “because of her mother’s homelessness and probably financial struggles and some other issues it was my opinion that she was neglected by being allowed to live with a person who had a history of criminality.” The defendant moved to strike. The trial court sustained the objection and instructed the jury to disregard the witness’s statement but denied the defendant’s motion for mistrial. Finding no abuse of discretion by the trial court in denying the mistrial motion, the court noted that the trial court sustained the defendant’s objection and instructed the jury to disregard. Moreover the disclosure of the defendant’s history of criminality was vague and “did not suggest Defendant had previously been convicted of anything.”