Today’s decision from the South Carolina Supreme Court for March 25, 2015

supremecourtunitedstates

Today, March 25, 2015, the South Carolina Supreme Court handed down two decisions: State v. Niles and State v. Lewis

In State v. Niles, the Court reversed the court of appeals’ decision. Niles was convicted of murder, armed robbery and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. The court of appeals reversed Respondent’s murder conviction and remanded for a new trial, finding the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on the lesser- included offense of voluntary manslaughter.  This Court granted the State’s petition for a writ of certiorari to consider the State’s argument that  the court of appeals erred in determining Niles was entitled to a jury instruction on voluntary manslaughter because there was no evidence at trial that Niles acted in a sudden heat of passion.

Although there was conflicting testimony regarding whose idea it was to rob the victim and who in fact robbed the victim, it is undisputed that an armed robbery occurred, of which all [involved] were found guilty. The Court noted that Niles did not appeal his conviction. The record reflects that the other two participants were unarmed and that Niles fired the fatal shot, killing the victim. The Court reasoned that “the scheme to rob the victim, coupled with Niles’s decision to arrive at the scene armed with a deadly weapon, discounts any claim that Niles in any way acted in a sudden heat of passion. Rather, Niles clearly planned for the possibility that he might have to discharge his weapon to accomplish the robbery, and did in fact kill the victim.

This Court reversed the court of appeals’ decision holding that the evidence did not warrant a voluntary manslaughter charge.

Justice Pleicones dissented in a separate opinion.

In State v. Lewis, the Court granted certiorari to review the court of appeals’ decision and now dismiss the writ as improvidently granted.

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