State v. Taylor, 2022-NCCOA-910, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Dec. 29, 2022)

In this Nash County case, defendant appealed his convictions for discharging a weapon into occupied property inflicting serious injury and possession of a firearm by a felon, arguing that the trial court erred by (1) allowing lay opinion testimony by police officers, (2) denying defendant’s motion to dismiss the discharging a firearm charges, and (3) admitting testimony that defendant was not cooperative during the investigation. The Court of Appeals found no error.

Defendant was convicted for the 2017 shooting of a home in Rocky Mount that injured the homeowner. The homeowner and victim of the injuries provided police with surveillance video from the home that showed a man matching the appearance of defendant, as well as a vehicle police later found defendant driving. At trial, the state offered testimony from several police officers identifying defendant in the surveillance footage. Defendant objected but the trial court overruled these objections. Defendant did not object to the testimony from one officer that defendant did not answer questions from a detective.

The Court of Appeals reviewed issue (1) in light of Rule 701, using the rubric from State v. Belk, 201 N.C. App. 412 (2009), explaining that the testimony was admissible as the officers had encountered defendant before and the quality of the video was low, so the identifying features highlighted by the officers weighed in favor of admissibility. Slip Op. at 8-9. Turning to issue (2), defendant argued that the state failed to put forward evidence showing a bullet he fired struck the victim; the court disagreed, noting that surveillance footage showed a person identified by witnesses as defendant standing near the home and firing shots in the direction of the house. The only other person visible on the footage did not appear to fire a shot, meaning evidence supported the inference that defendant fired a bullet that hit the victim. Finally, considering (3), the court did not find plain error, as the prosecutor did not ask the witness to comment on defendant’s lack of answers, and did not rely on the testimony to establish any element of the crime or defendant’s ultimate guilt.