NC Rules of Evidence 608(B) Interpretation
Under the North Carolina Rules of Evidence, Rule 608(b), "specific instances of the conduct of a witness . . . may . . . in the discretion of the court, if probative of truthfulness or untruthfulness, be inquired into on cross-examination of the witness (1) concerning his character for truthfulness or untruthfulness . . . ." N.C. R. Evid. 608(b) (2007).
In State v. Braxton, 352 N.C. 158, 531 S.E.2d 428 (2000), the defendant testified on direct examination about living conditions he endured in prison while in lockup and while on maximum security. Id. at 196, 531 S.E.2d at 450.
On cross-examination, the State inquired into prison infractions the defendant committed prior to being placed in lockup. Id. at 195, 531 S.E.2d at 450.
The defendant argued on appeal that the State's cross-examination exceeded the scope of Rule 608(b) because the "prison infractions did not inherently involve dishonesty and that nothing in the context of the challenged questions suggested that defendant's prison infractions were probative of his truthfulness or untruthfulness." Id. at 195-96, 531 S.E.2d at 450.
The Braxton Court stated that:
Rule 608(b) of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence governs the admissibility of specific acts of misconduct where (i) the purpose of the inquiry is to show conduct indicative of the actor's character for truthfulness or untruthfulness; (ii) the conduct in question is in fact probative of truthfulness or untruthfulness; (iii) the conduct in question is not too remote in time; (iv) the conduct did not result in a conviction; and (v) the inquiry takes place during cross-examination. Id. at 195, 531 S.E.2d at 450.
The Court reasoned that the State's cross-examination of the defendant revealed that the defendant was placed in lockup as a form of punishment rather than mistreatment. Id. at 196, 531 S.E.2d at 450.
The Court's conclusion was that the purpose of cross-examination was to show the defendant's character for untruthfulness and as such the cross-examination did not violate Rule 608(b). Id.