The Law Office of Mark L. Hayes recently won on appeal in State v. Angram, No. COA19-151 (N.C. Ct. App. Feb. 18, 2020), after the Court found that its client’s motion to dismiss should have been granted because the State did not present substantial evidence for each element of its client’s accused offense.
At trial, Angram involved a man who withdrew a large sum of money from his credit union and was later robbed at gunpoint when he returned home. The State’s theory for the robbery was that one of the credit union employees, who had a child with Mr. Hayes’ client’s brother, called Mr. Hayes’ client to inform him of the withdrawal and the victim’s address, and that Mr. Hayes’ client then informed and encouraged his brother to rob the victim at gunpoint. At trial, Mr. Hayes’ client was charged with, but not convicted of, conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon. Mr. Hayes’ client was however convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon based upon a theory presented by the State of aiding and abetting his brother, who in a separate, earlier trial, had been convicted of the robbery.
The State’s aiding and abetting jury instruction relied on two theories: either Mr. Hayes’ client communicated with his brother or Mr. Hayes’ client drove his brother to the victim’s house. The State’s aiding and abetting theory was propped up only by the basis of the underlying relationship of Mr. Hayes’ client, Mr. Hayes’ client’s brother, and the credit union employee. However, all four employees working the day of the robbery used their cell phones while the victim was at the bank and all were questioned by law enforcement. Additionally, the credit union employee implicated here did not personally assist the victim.
Mr. Hayes argued that the two theories underlying the instruction for aiding and abetting were not based on any substantive evidence and the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support a valid inference of either theory. The Court of Appeals agreed with Mr. Hayes, reasoning that “[t]he State’s argument requires not just one but at least three layers of inference built solely on knowledge of [the victim’s] transaction and [the credit union employee’s] phone call with the father of her child.” Angram, No. COA19-151 at 9 (emphasis in original). In finding for Mr. Hayes’ client, the Court pointed out that the State attempted to rely on a detective’s interview of Mr. Hayes’ client’s brother which was not entered into evidence, but in fact used only for the purposes of impeachment, which cannot be used to support a substantive claim. Additionally, the Court could not determine from the transcript of the trial court if the credit union employee actually called Mr. Hayes’ client herself, despite the State wanting it to make that assumption.
The Court found the State’s reliance on the relationship of Mr. Hayes’ client, Mr. Hayes’ client’s brother, and the credit union employee to show that Mr. Hayes’ client was allegedly involved in the aiding and abetting was rooted in speculation. Further, because the detective’s interview was not admitted for substantive purposes, there was no substantial evidence to support Mr. Hayes’ client’s conviction of aiding and abetting robbery with a dangerous weapon. The Court thus found that the trial court should have allowed Mr. Hayes’ client’s motion to dismiss.
Please been advised, however, that success in this case should not be construed as an indication this firm will be successful in any given future case, and you should consult with a license attorney to determine the viability of your own case.