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Criminal Practice

Sep 11, 2023

Criminal Practice – Expert Witness – Cell Site Location Information – Rule 702 – ‘Textbook’ Qualification

In determining whether solicitor’s office investigator Dylan Hightower should be qualified as an expert in cell site location information, the trial judge delved deeply into the extent of Hightower’s education and into the complexity of his proposed testimony. From the trial judge’s “robust” examination of Hightower, this court can clearly see the trial judge understood [&hel[...]

Aug 31, 2023

Criminal Practice – Kidnapping, Robbery & Murder – Confession – Other Bad Acts – Sentencing

In interrogating defendant, the detectives in this case went up to the line of what is permissible. However, despite their misrepresentations, their mentions of the death penalty, and their promise not “to slap a robbery charge on you,” the detectives did not cross that line so as to render defendant’s confession involuntary. We affirm defendant’s […]

Aug 31, 2023

Criminal Practice – Jury Instructions – Logan – Direct & Circumstantial Evidence – CSC with a Minor

In this case involving criminal sexual conduct with a minor, some of the state’s evidence was circumstantial, so the trial court erred by declining to instruct the jury pursuant to State v. Logan, 405 S.C. 83, 747 S.E.2d 444 (2013). Nevertheless, since most of the state’s evidence was direct – including the minor victim’s testimony […]

Aug 16, 2023

Criminal Practice – Murder – Gruesome Autopsy Photos – Unnecessary

The only issue at defendant’s murder trial was who killed the victim – defendant or defendant’s husband. There was undisputed evidence as to how the victim died, as well as ample evidence of malice. Consequently, there was minimal probative value in gruesome photographs from the victim’s autopsy, and the trial court erred in admitting those […]

Aug 16, 2023

Criminal Practice – Attempted Murder – Jury Instructions – ‘Intent’ & ‘Motive’

During deliberations, the jury asked, “What is meant by intent?” In defining intent, the trial court ended with, “When the intent to do an act that violates the law exists, motive becomes immaterial.” Although this instruction had the potential to confuse the jury, it was harmless given the state’s evidence that defendant intentionally shot at […]

Aug 16, 2023

Criminal Practice – Sex Offender Registry – Relocation to Georgia – Certified Question

S.C. Code Ann. §§ 23-3-462 and 23-3-430(E), (F) and (G) set forth provisions for removing a sex offender’s name and identifying information from South Carolina’s sex offender registry. Moving to another state is not among them. The Sex Offender Registry Act exists to protect the public from sex offenders who may re-offend and to aid […]

Aug 16, 2023

Criminal Practice – PCR – Ineffective Assistance Claim – Lesser-Included Offense – Voluntary Manslaughter

Given the background of violence between petitioner and the victim, the victim’s companion’s reputation for carrying a gun, and petitioner’s fear when the victim and his companion started following petitioner, defendant’s trial counsel did not provide ineffective assistance of counsel when he failed to object to the trial court’s jury instruction on the lesser-included offense […]

Jul 25, 2023

Criminal Practice – PCR – Ineffective Assistance Claim – Mutual Combat Instruction

After quarreling with in-laws (a brother-in-law and the husband of petitioner’s niece) earlier in the day, petitioner and two accomplices engaged in an exchange of gunfire with petitioner’s in-laws and their relatives. Given the apparent willingness of each combatant – including petitioner – to engage in an armed encounter, there was an inference of mutual […]

Jul 25, 2023

Criminal Practice – Murder – Jury & Jurors – NGRI Plea – Mitigating Factors

Juror #338 expressed confusion about why the jury could be informed about the consequences of a guilty verdict (i.e., life without parole or death) but not informed of the consequences of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI). Because Juror #338 unambiguously said she could not consider an NGRI verdict unless she […]

Jul 24, 2023

Criminal Practice – Sentencing – Probation Condition – Adult Pornography – Vagueness

A special condition of supervised release prohibits defendant not only from possessing materials depicting or describing child pornography, as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 2256, but also from possessing or accessing materials or web sites depicting children or adults in the nude and/or engaged in sexual activity; it further prohibits him from patronizing businesses or […]

Jul 24, 2023

Criminal Practice – PCR – Ineffective Assistance Claim – Homicide by Child Abuse – Prior Bad Acts

Petitioner was convicted of homicide by child abuse (HCA) after (1) he woke to find his four-month-old adopted son (Victim) asphyxiated underneath his armpit; (2) petitioner successfully performed CPR; (3) he left Victim in his playpen and went outside to mow the lawn; (4) petitioner’s wife awoke to find Victim was not breathing; (5) a […]

Jul 24, 2023

Criminal Practice – Sentencing – 17-Year-Old Defendant – Aiken Factors

The resentencing court stated that defendant had been “within one year of” adulthood when his crime was committed. While the fact that an offender is 17 is relevant, we reiterate that 17-year-olds are children entitled to the protection of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), and Aiken v. Byars, 410 S.C. 534, 765 S.E.2d […]

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