State v. Walters, 368 N.C. 749 (Mar. 18, 2016)

On discretionary review from a unanimous unpublished Court of Appeals decision, the court reversed in part, concluding that the trial court’s jury instructions regarding first-degree kidnapping did not violate the defendant’s constitutional right to be convicted by the unanimous verdict. The trial court instructed the jury, in part, that to convict the defendant it was required to find that he removed the victim for the purpose of facilitating commission of or flight after committing a specified felony assault. The defendant was convicted and appealed arguing that the disjunctive instruction violated his right to a unanimous verdict. Citing its decision in State v. Bell, 359 N.C. 1, 29-30, the Supreme Court disagreed, stating: “our case law has long embraced a distinction between unconstitutionally vague instructions that render unclear the offense for which the defendant is being convicted and instructions which instead permissibly state that more than one specific act can establish an element of a criminal offense.” It also found that, contrary to the opinion below, the evidence was sufficient to support a jury finding that the defendant had kidnapped the victim in order to facilitate an assault on the victim.