State v. Summey, 228 N.C. App. 730 (Aug. 6, 2013)

(1) In a statutory rape case, the trial court committed reversible error by expressing an opinion regarding the victim’s age--an element of the offense--when responding to a note from the jury. During deliberations, the jury sent a note asking: “May we please have the date and age of [the victim] when she was raped the first time regarding the first-degree rape?” The trial court informed the jurors that the information they sought was in the victim’s testimony and that it was their duty to recall that testimony from memory. Juror number 5 then immediately asked: “[W]ould it be an accurate statement that the Court would not be able to charge him with that particular charge if it were not in corroboration with the age reference?” The trial court answered: “You’re correct.” (2) The trial court did not commit plain error by referring to the prosecuting witnesses as “victims” in its jury instructions. The trial court’s statements did not constitute an opinion.