January 16, 2013 South Carolina Supreme Court published opinions

In the Matter of Charles V.B. Cushman

Cushman was a city prosecutor. He allowed certain defendants to have their cases dismissed in exchange for a donation to a city “drug fund’. The chief Justice of South Carolina ordered all unauthorized diversion programs to cease in 2003. The county solicitor told Cushman to stop the program in 2011. He did not stop or ask for guidance. He pled guilty to official misconduct and agreed to discipline up to a six month suspension. The Court accepted the agreement and publicly reprimanded Cushman for his conduct.

State v Rice

Rice was charged as a juvenile on multiple counts of robbery, kidnapping and other violent felonies. The family court transferred the case to circuit court. Rice accepted a plea deal and pled guilty to four counts. He appealed directly to the South Carolina Supreme Court attacking the transfer order. The Court affirmed holding that South Carolina does not recognize conditional guilty pleas and thus rice waived his challenge to the transfer. As alternative grounds, the four judge majority also held that the challenge was not to subject matter jurisdiction as the circuit court has jurisdiction over felony cases but merely an alleged error by the family court. It also held that the transfer order merely decided where the case would be heard and did not increased the potential punishment. Thus, Rice’s constitutional claim failed on the merits. The dissenting justice argued that it was fundamentally unfair to hold waiver here as the circuit court lacked jurisdiction to hear argument on the validity of the transfer order and it violates public policy to require a juvenile to waive challenges to the transfer order to take advantage of plea deals.

State v Cheeks

Pursuant to a warrant which had the supporting affidavit attached, police searched Cheeks home and discovered him cooking crack cocaine. His motion to suppress was denied. During his drug trafficking trial, the judge instructed the jury that actual knowledge of the cocaine was strong evidence of intent to distribute. The jury convicted Cheeks. The Court affirmed. It held that a reviewing court may look to an attached affidavit to determine whether or not the specificity requirement for the warrant is met. Here, the affidavit contained specific details of the location to be searched and items to be seized and the motion to suppress was properly denied. The court agreed that the “strong evidence” charge was error as it effectively negated the “mere presence” charge that presence at a crime scene does not equal participation in the crime and is an impermissible comment on the evidence by the judge. In so doing, the court overruled two precedents which held otherwise. However, Rice was not merely present at the home but was actively cooking crack. Thus, the charge was harmless error.

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