State v. Waring, 364 N.C. 443 (Nov. 5, 2010)

(1) The trial court did not err by allowing the State’s challenge for cause of a prospective juror when the juror’s beliefs about the death penalty could not be pinned down. (2) The trial court did not err in denying the defendant’s motion to dismiss asserting that disproportionate numbers of prospective jurors who were African-American, opposed the death penalty, or both, were excluded from the jury in violation of Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412 (1985). The court declined to reconsider its previous holding that death qualifying a jury in a capital case does not violate the United States or North Carolina Constitutions. (3) The trial court did not err by prohibiting defense counsel from suggesting during voir dire that there is a presumption that life without parole is the appropriate sentence when North Carolina law does not establish such a presumption. (4) The court rejected the defendant’s argument that the State injected error when it stated to prospective jurors that the jury had to be unanimous as to a sentence of death or life without parole. According to the defendant, these comments erroneously indicated that the jury had to recommend a life sentence unanimously, placing a burden on the defendant, when in fact life sentence is imposed if the jury cannot agree during a capital sentencing proceeding. While the defendant was correct that an inability to reach unanimity in a capital sentencing proceeding will result in a life sentence, the jury is not to be instructed as to the result of being unable to reach a unanimous sentencing recommendation. (5) The State did not reduce its burden when it asked prospective jurors to presuppose that the defendant had been found guilty. Such a supposition was a necessary prelude to voir dire questions relating to the sentencing proceeding, should one be needed.