State v. Thompson, COA22-1036, ___ N.C. App. ___ (Jan. 2, 2024)

In this Chatham County case, defendant appealed his convictions for first-degree forcible rape, first-degree kidnapping, sexual battery, and assault of a female, arguing the trial court abused its discretion by denying his motion for a mistrial. The Court of Appeals found no error. 

In April of 2019, defendant came to the victim’s house and offered her drugs and alcohol. The two consumed the drugs and defendant eventually forced himself upon the victim, forcibly raping her while punching her repeatedly. When defendant came to trial, the victim took the stand to testify about the events. During her testimony, defense counsel took issue with the victim’s “streamed sort of consciousness” testimony, and the State requested to be allowed more leading questions on direct examination. Slip Op. at 2. The trial court allowed voir dire to determine whether the victim’s mental health issues necessitated more leading questions, and during this voir dire it was revealed that the victim had either bipolar or borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and a substance use or abuse disorder, and the victim had recently relapsed and was released from rehab the week before her testimony. She was also on medication for certain medical conditions. On the fourth day of the trial, the State informed the trial court that the bailiffs believed the victim had consumed alcohol that morning, and the victim took a portable breathalyzer, which resulted in a 0.0 BAC reading. However, the victim admitted she had “a sip of vodka” because of her nerves. 3. Later on recross, “[the victim] disclosed to the jury that she took a shot of alcohol that was in her purse upon arriving to the courthouse.” Id. at 4. She also admitted to having a beer at lunch the day before. 

Considering defendant’s argument, the Court of Appeals noted “given the trial court’s knowledge and consideration of the result of the breathalyzer test, we cannot conclude the trial court abused its discretion.” Id. at 7. Instead, the trial court took “immediate and reasonable steps” to address the victim’s behavior, and the trial court’s decision to deny defendant’s motion for a mistrial was a reasonable decision. Id. at 8.