North Carolina Prosecutor's Comment About Defendant's Failure to Testify

In State v. Chapman, 359 N.C. 328, 367-69, 611 S.E.2d 794, 823-24 (2005), the Supreme Court of North Carolina found no reversible error when the prosecutor commented in his closing that the defendant had not admitted guilt. The prosecutor stated that it would be helpful to have evidence where the defendant had said, "yes, I intended to kill him and then the defendant shoots the victim. We don't have that statement from the defendant where he said that to somebody or that he's admitted to that." Id. at 367, 611 S.E.2d at 823. On review, our Supreme Court noted that the prosecutor's closing argument explained "that the State may seek to prove premeditation and deliberation by circumstantial evidence because direct proof of those elements of first-degree murder . . . is often unavailable." Id. at 368, 611 S.E.2d at 823-24. Therefore, the Court held the reference to the defendant's failure to testify was an "indirect" comment, and as such, it was held that there was no prejudicial violation of the defendant's rights. Id. at 368-69, 611 S.E.2d at 824. Taken in context, the statements in the closing argument were not found to "'encourage the jury to infer guilt from defendant's silence.'" Id. at 368, 611 S.E.2d at 824.