State v. Singleton, 2022-NCCOA-656, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Oct. 4, 2022)

In this Wake County case, defendant appealed his conviction for second-degree rape due to a missing element in the charging indictment, and his conviction for first-degree kidnapping due to insufficiency of the evidence. The Court of Appeals found the charging indictment was flawed and vacated defendant’s rape conviction, but affirmed his conviction for kidnapping.

In November of 2017, a college student went to a bar in downtown Raleigh with a group of friends and became intoxicated. Security camera footage showed defendant helping the victim into his vehicle around 2:25am. The student remembered dancing with her sister and friends around 2:00am; her next memory was around 5:30am when she found herself in defendant’s vehicle while he was engaging in sexual intercourse with her. The student told defendant to stop, tried to find her cellphone, and then fled the vehicle when she could not find her phone. The student reported the incident and defendant was convicted of rape and kidnapping after a trial. 

The Court of Appeals first reviewed the charging indictment for defendant’s rape conviction, explaining that in North Carolina, one purpose of a charging indictment is to confer jurisdiction on the trial court. Failure to allege each element of a crime is a jurisdictional defect that cannot be waived. The court noted applicable precedent showing that an indictment may use different language that the statute that creates the offense, but the language used must be sufficiently similar to represent all elements of the crime alleged. In the current matter, the indictment used the phrase “engaged in vaginal intercourse” as opposed to the statute’s “carnally know and abuse.” Slip Op. at 7. The court explained that this was not sufficient because the indictment did not include “abuse,” as “[t]he inclusion of ‘abuse” is necessary to describe that [d]efendant knew and took advantage of [the victim’s] physical inability to resist his advances.” Id. Because of this flaw, the court vacated the judgment of rape and dismissed the indictment without prejudice. 

Reviewing defendant’s argument of insufficiency of the evidence for his kidnapping conviction, the court found ample evidence in the record to support the elements of first-degree kidnapping. Explaining the evidence, the court found that defendant transported defendant for purposes of a felony and released her in an area that was unknown to her and not safe in her intoxicated condition. 

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