June 20, 2012 South Carolina published opinions

Supreme Court

In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Bobbie Manigo

Mangio was convicted twice for assault with intent to rape. He was evaluated after his second conviction, he was evaluated under the sexual predator act, but, the state did not seek his commitment based on a lack of clinical evidence. After his release, he was convicted of indecent exposure. He was evaluated again and the state sought and obtained his commitment after a jury found him to be a sexually violent predator. At trial, he argued that because his current offense was not a sexually violent offense, he could not be committed. The trial court rejected this arguments and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court, 4-1, affirmed. It noted that the relevant statute applied to persons “who have been convicted” of sexually violent offenses and is not limited to persons who current offense is sexually violent. It noted that allowing persons who meet the criteria to avoid commitment because their current offense was not sexually violent would violate the Legislature’s intent and lead to absurd results. The majority refused to apply the rule of lenity as the language was unambiguous, commitment proceedings are civil and a later amendment removed any doubt as to the meaning of the statute. The dissenting Justice argued the appeal to the Court of Appeals only challenged denial of summary judgment which is not reviewable. Thus, there was no jurisdiction to hear the case and the Court of Appeals opinion should have been vacated.

State v Salley

Salley was convicted of murder by child abuse. On appeal, she challenged the admission of a photo of the child while alive and two pieces of wood with staples seized outside her home. The Court, 4-1, affirmed. As to the photo, the Court held that the picture was relevant to support the pathologist’s testimony that the victim had sickle cell anemia which was not apparent by looking at her and confirmed that the victim was a healthy girl and not a sickly. As to the wood, the Court held the admission of the wood was error as there was no evidence the wood was used in the committing the crime and the visual image of staples protruding every eight inches created prejudice which substantially outweighed the relevance of the wood as examples of items that could have been used. However, the Court held this error was harmless as both the pathologist’s findings as to the timeline of injury and death and Salley’s version of the events established that only Salley had access to the victim at the time of injury. The dissenting Justice argued that the key issue in the case was not the timeline but if Salley’s actions constituted abuse. Agreeing that the admission of the wood was error, he concluded that the verdict was affected by the admission of the wood and therefore would have reversed the conviction.

Argabright v Argabright

Mother began dating a convicted sex offender and kept her boyfriend’s past from Father. After Father learned about boyfriend’s status through the sex offender registry, Mother admitted knowing about boyfriend’s past and refused to limit boyfriend’s contact with the parties’ daughter. Father sought and obtained a restraining order prohibiting boyfriend form having contact with daughter until she tuernd eighteen. On appeal, the Court, 4-1, affirmed. The majority held the boyfriend had no legal right to contact with the daughter and the best interests of the daughter were served by the restrain order,. The majority also held that Mother could not be trusted to supervise contact and affirmed the prohibition on all contact. The dissenting Justice, on de novo review, found the situation was one where mother took care of her daughter, only allowed boyfriend to be with daughter alone once and boyfriend made successful efforts to rehabilitate. He would have allowed supervised contact.

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