June 26, 2013 South Carolina Court of Appeals published opinions

State v Beekman

Beekman was convicted of molesting two stepchildren at a trial on charges related to both victims. The panel affirmed. It held that joinder of the charges was proper as the molestation took place in the same home over the course of the same eight month period and involved substantially the same behavior and evidence involving both victims would have been admissible other bad act evidence in separate trials. The Panel found Beekman’s other arguments unpreserved and in any event failed on the merits as the other bad acts evidence was properly admitted and South Carolina does not follow the plain error rule.

State v Sobers

Sobers was convicted of murder. He appealed arguing he should have been allowed to present gang evidence at his trial. The panel rejected his argument and affirmed. It held that Sobers failed to present any evidence that behavior of the other people present had anything to do with gang membership and thus any gang evidence would have been irrelevant to the proceeding.

South Carolina Department of Social Services v Jennifer M.

The family court found that Jennifer m. used drugs while pregnant, knew she was taking drugs while engaging in sex and therefore neglected her unborn child. It ordered her name to be added to the neglect/abuse registry. The panel reversed. It held that under South Carolina Code 63-7-20, a woman must have actual knowledge that she is pregnant before her drug use can be the basis for neglect or an abuse finding. Here, Jennifer M. was adamant that she did not know she was pregnant, did not notice the changes which occurred during her previous pregnancies and pushed a van three days before giving birth which she would not have done had she known she was pregnant. The panel rejected the family court’s finding that sex alone puts a woman on notice. The panel also held that evidence of positive drug tests before birth was irrelevant to a neglect finding and there was no other evidence admitted relating to post birth tests. Thus, the panel vacated the registry order.

State v Dukes

Dukes challenged an out of court identification by an eyewitness. The trail court denied his motion to suppress. The panel affirmed. It held that Dukes received due process at the hearing as he received notice of the hearing and was allowed to cross examine witnesses and present evidence and the panel was reviewing the ruling. The panel held the trial court did not err in relying on the testimony of the witness and his father while not requiring the officer to come back from Afghanistan to testify. The panel reasoned that trial court found that even the process of individually displayed photos was not unduly suggestive which the panel held was supported by substantial evidence. The panel held that Dukes bore the burden of proof, the trail court required the government to prove the method was not suggestive and Dukes failed to demonstrate suggestiveness.

State v Magaha

Magaha was tried on four counts of molestation involving two victims. He moved for spate trials for charges involving each victim which the trial court denied. The panel affirmed. It held that joint trial was appropriate as the charges involved the same house, similar acts and similar evidence, that much of the evidence was from the same witnesses, that the charges were identical and that the evidence involving each victim would have been admissible in a separate trial as other bad act evidence.

State v Murray

Murray moved that the jury be charged on involuntary manslaughter and the trial court refused. The panel affirmed holding that Murray’s testimony that he put the gun to victim’s chest and fired conclusively demonstrated the gun was intentionally, not accidentally, fired. Thus, involuntary manslaughter was not an appropriate charge and the trial court correctly refused to give it.

Simpson v Simpson

The South Carolina court of appeals affirmed the property division in the parties’ divorce action. Wife brought a contempt action and the family court modified the property division. The panel reversed. It held that under South Carolina law, family courts have no subject matter jurisdiction to change an approved property division. Husband was also barred from contesting his ownership of several houses because that issue was already decided in the appeal and thus res judicata and law of the case prevented relitigation. The panel found no intent to deceive the court by wife and thus no judicial estoppel existed. The panel held that husband the parties’ son and their limited liability company should have been ordered to transfer complete ownership of the houses to wife and remanded for an order to those parties to do so. The panel also remanded the issue of attorney fees in light of the reversal.

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