North Carolina Court of Appeals to hear oral arguments at law school on Tuesday, Sept. 22

For the 23rd consecutive year, Wake Forest Law will host oral arguments for the N.C. Court of Appeals on Tuesday, Sept. 22. Oral arguments are set begin at 3 p.m. in the Worrell Professional Center, Room 1312. The court session is open to the public.

The panel of judges includes Judge Wanda G. Bryant, Judge Richard Dietz (JD ’02) and Judge John M. Tyson. They are scheduled to hear oral arguments for two cases that day: State v. Ford and State v. Mastor.

“You have the opportunity to come see these judges in action as they hear two cases from their docket that should be interesting and instructive for law students,” Professor Chris Coughlin says. “At the close of the session, the judges will invite the audience to ask questions concerning appellate practice. In addition, following the arguments, there will be a reception for the judges, their law clerks (including Wake Forest Law alumni) and all members of our law school community.”

Following is a summary of the cases:

In the first case, State v. Ford, Defendant Antonio Ford (the owner of a pit bull named DMX) was convicted of involuntary manslaughter following the death of Mr. Chandler in May 2012. Mr. Chandler was found dead in the driveway of the house next door in a pool of blood, including bloody paw prints.  Defendant Ford contends that several key pieces of the evidence linking DMX to the death of Mr. Chandler were inappropriately admitted into evidence.  Defendant Ford specifically argues that the trial court erred in admitting a sound recording of a rap song containing Ford’s voice that “lashed out at [the] District Attorney.” The State argues that the rap song was properly admitted because it helped authenticate Ford’s social media page and it showed Ford’s careless disregard for life. The Defendant argues that the rap song audio should not have been admitted because it was irrelevant and prejudicial because it only served to emotionally inflame the jury. The second issue is whether screenshots of Ford’s MySpace page were properly authenticated. The State argues that the unique content including a reference to “DMX, the Killer,” the unique nickname of the defendant, and the unique voice of the defendant present on the MySpace page authenticated it. The Defendant argues that the MySpace screenshots were not properly authenticated because there was no mention of identity security on the website or Internet protocol address tracking. The third issue is whether the pathologist was allowed to testify that the cause of Mr. Chandler’s death was due to “dog” bites. The State argues that the pathologist testified within his expertise and his conclusion as to the cause of death was based on his training as a medical doctor and as a forensic pathologist. The Defendant argues that while the pathologist could properly testify that the bites were not from a human, the pathologist could not testify they were dog bites because it would be outside the scope of the pathologist’s expertise.

The second case, State v. Mastor, centers around whether the trial court erred when it found the defendant, Allyson Mastor, in criminal contempt for violating a provision of the consent order which forbade her from allowing her minor children to be in the presence of a “sex offender.” Mastor filed her complaint for child custody, among other provisions, on Sept. 21, 2012, against Jason Mastor, the father of her children, in Iredell County District Court. On Dec. 18, 2012, a consent order resolving child custody was entered that specified that neither party shall have any convicted sex offender in the presence of their minor children. On Jan. 24, 2014, the father filed a motion for contempt against Mastor, alleging that Mastor allowed a convicted sex offender, Kistel, to be in the presence of the minor children, thereby violating the consent order. Kistel had previously been convicted of felony secret peeping in violation of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-202, although he was not required to register as a sex offender. The Iredell County District Court found Mastor guilty of indirect criminal contempt. On appeal, the defense argues that Kistel is not a sex offender, because the term is undefined and impermissibly vague.