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Criminal Practice – Stand Your Ground – Insufficient Findings – Conflicting Evidence – Video Authentication – Jury Deliberations 

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//December 2, 2022//

Criminal Practice – Stand Your Ground – Insufficient Findings – Conflicting Evidence – Video Authentication – Jury Deliberations 

By: South Carolina Lawyers Weekly staff//December 2, 2022//

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In this case arising out of a shooting during an altercation on the lawn of a mutual friend of defendant and the victim, the trial court’s decision under the Protections of Persons and Property Act failed to make specific findings to support its determination that defendant was not entitled to immunity. The trial court twice explained that it denied defendant immunity due to the conflicting evidence and the “open question” of whether defendant was entitled to a self-defense jury instruction. The trial court concluded that “such matters are best left to the finders of fact, namely the trial jury.” Consequently, the trial court failed to sit as the fact-finder at defendant’s immunity hearing. 

We remand for the trial court to make specific findings that support its determination of whether defendant is, or is not, entitled to immunity. We affirm the trial court’s admission of surveillance video into evidence and its denial of defendant’s new-trial motion without a hearing. 

Defendant shot the victim in the yard of their mutual friend, Ricky Grant. Grant’s neighbor, Jeovani Vacquec, provided surveillance video from his home security system. Vacquec’s testimony sufficiently authenticated the video. He explained that the time stamp on the video was incorrect because he did not set the correct date or time when he set up the security system. It is irrelevant that Vacquec was not watching his monitor at the time of the shooting. 

The surveillance video provided an alternative perspective of the shooting that was objective and neutral. Moreover, the surveillance video clearly contradicted some of defendant’s testimony. Despite the dark image, the video clearly shows more than two people in and around Grant’s yard at the time of the shooting. Therefore, the surveillance video was highly probative. 

While the quality of the surveillance video made it difficult to discern what happened, the jury was able to replay the video, or portions of it, as many times as it wanted to. Therefore, allowing the jury to view the surveillance video was unlikely to cause confusion, and its probative value outweighed any danger that it would. 

Finally, defendant asserts the trial court erred by denying his motion for a new trial without a hearing. Defendant contends he should have been allowed to ask all 12 jurors whether the length of their deliberations, lack of dinner, or their understanding of whether a verdict had to be rendered had an impact on their verdict. We disagree. 

The trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying defendant’s motion for a new trial without a hearing. The trial court aptly recognized that defendant’s requested inquiries are prohibited by Rule 606(b), SCRE. A juror’s Facebook post – saying she “just couldn’t leave without a verdict” – did not indicate that any extraneous prejudicial information or outside influence had an impact on the jury’s deliberations; it also did not indicate that defendant’s verdict was reached as a result of racial or gender intimidation or that the jury began deliberating prematurely. Therefore, defendant’s requested inquiries would have involved juror testimony about internal influences unrelated to fundamental fairness. 

Affirmed in part and remanded. 

State v. Gray (Lawyers Weekly No. 011-069-22, 12 pp.) (Aphrodite Konduros, J.) Appealed from Greenwood County Circuit Court (Frank Addy, J.) Susan Barber Hackett and Sarah Elizabeth Shipe for appellant; Alan McCrory Wilson, Donald Zelenka, Melody Jane Brown, Michael Ross and David Stumbo for respondent. S.C. App. 

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