August 6, 2014 South Carolina Court of Appeals published opinions

Fowler v Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company

Nationwide appealed the verdict against it arguing the trial court erroneously allowed expert testimony through a lay witness. The panel reversed and remanded for a new trial. It held that once the trail court ruled the witness was not an expert in fire cause and organ, it was error to allow the witness to testify as to his opinion on the cause and origin of the fire. It also held that the firefighter reports created in this case was hearsay as it contained opinions of the investigator and it was therefore error to admit it. The panel held the errors were prejudicial because there is a fair probability eh jury relied on the testimony and report given the central place the evidence had in Foster’s closing argument.

State v Perry

Perry appealed his conviction for lewd act on a child arguing the trial court improperly charged the jury and erroneously admitted recorded statements of forensic interviews into evidence. The panel, with one judge dissenting in part, affirmed. The majority held that the jury charge that time is not an element of the lewd act charge was correct as to the law, has never been held prejudicial or improper by a South Carolina appellate court and Perry’s attorney was able to highlight the discrepancies between victim’s account and other evidence as to the timeline of events. The majority also held that the admission of the recorded interviews was proper as the interviews met the statutory requirements. The partial dissent agreed that the recorded interviews were properly admitted as no proper objection was raised. The dissent argued the jury charge was improper because it contradicted the defense timeline argument which was based on the victim’s inability to correctly identify the time of the alleged lewd act and this prejudiced Perry.

State v Curry

Curry appealed his conviction arguing the trail court should have charged the jury on guilty but mentally ill. The panel reversed and remanded for a new trial. It held there was evidence in the record, including an expert opinion that Curry was manic and lay and expert testimony of his odd and isolating behavior including storing his own waste in his cell, that provide a basis for concluding he may have had difficulty conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law. Thus, the failure to charge was error and given a guilty but mentally ill verdict would have entitled Curry to mandatory treatment, the error was not harmless.

State v White

White appealed his murder and robbery convictions arguing his statements to investigators were obtained in violation of Miranda and he was prejudiced by their admission. The panel, 2-1, affirmed. The majority held the trial court made inadequate findings on the issue of whether the investigators violated Miranda. However, the majority held any error was harmless given the cell phone, accomplice and other witness testimony that placed White at the scene and identified him as the shooter. The dissent argued any error was harmful and would have remanded for fact finding.

 

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