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N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8C-1, N.C. R. Evid. 404(b) (1999), is a clear general rule of inclusion of relevant evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts by a defendant, subject to but one exception requiring its exclusion if its only probative value is to show that the defendant has the propensity or disposition to commit an offense of the nature of the crime charged. Therefore, evidence of bad conduct and prior crimes is admissible under Rule 404(b) as long as it is relevant to any fact or issue other than the defendant's propensity to commit the crime.
Defendant Ronnie Hayze Wilkerson sold cocaine to a confidential informant. A search warrant was obtained, and cocaine was found on his person and at his residence. At trial, evidence of defendant's prior convictions for possession of cocaine, possession with intent to sell or deliver, and sale and delivery of cocaine was admitted. The trial court instructed the jury to consider this evidence for intent or knowledge and not to prove the offense for which defendant was being tried. Defendant offered no evidence at trial. Defendant was convicted of possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine and trafficking in cocaine. Defendant appealed.
The appellate court held the prior crimes were sufficiently similar to the instant charge to allow their admission under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8C-1, N.C. R. Evid. 404(b) (1999), to prove intent and knowledge, because all occurred at the same address, defendant was present at all the offenses, all involved cocaine, and the prior convictions occurred within a year of the instant charge. When the jury requested a statement defendant made at the time of his arrest for one of the prior convictions, the trial court instructed them not to give the statement undue weight, and to consider it only for the limited purpose for which it was originally received. Defendant stated no objection to this instruction. The instruction was not an impermissible judicial comment on the evidence, nor was it plain error.