South Carolina Supreme Court Opinions


Last week, the South Carolina Supreme Court published four decisions: State v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen-Pharmaceuticals, In the Matter of James R. Jones, II, State v. Broadnex, and State v. Counts.

In State v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Appellant OMJ Pharmaceuticals petition the Court to rehear this Court’s opinion in State ex rel. Wilson v. Ortho-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.

This Court grants the petition to file a substituted opinion to correct a mathematical calculation and to clarify that the unfair trade practices judgment against Appellant is supported by federal law, including the federal “tendency to deceive” standard, and thus complies, with S. C. Code Ann. § 39-5-22(b). Accordingly, the Court affirms in part, reverses in part and remands.

In the Matter of James R. Jones II, the Court disbars a lawyer from the practice of law for violation of the following Rules of Professional Conduct, Rule 407, SCACR: Rule 1.4, Rule 1.5, Rule 1.15 and Rule 4.17. Additionally, the Court found him in violation of the following Rules for Lawyer Disciplinary Enforcement, Rule 413, SCACR: Rule 7(a).

In State v. Broadnax, the State appealed the court of appeals’ reversal of Broadnax’s convictions for armed robbery and kidnapping, and remanding for a new trial. At trial, the State introduced Broadnax’s former armed robbery convictions for impeachment purposes during his testimony. Broadnax argued that the trial court erred in admitting his prior convictions. This Court agrees that the trial court erred in admitting the prior convictions and found that armed robbery is not a “crime of dishonesty or false statement” pursuant to Rule 609(a)(2), SCRE. However, the Court found that such error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court affirms in part and reversed in part the court of appeals’ decision.

In State v. Counts, Petitioner contends the circuit court judge erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence that was found at his residence after he opened his door in response to police officers knocking on the door. Petitioner claimed the use of the “knock and talk” investigative technique at his home violated his rights under the constitutions of the United States and South Carolina as this procedure constituted an unreasonable search and seizure and violated his state right to privacy. The court of appeals affirmed. This Court granted Petitioner’s request for a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the court of appeals. This Court affirmed as modified.

On Wednesday, July 2nd, the South Carolina Supreme Court published seven decisions.

In State v. Jenkins, the Court granted a writ of certiorari to review whether a harmless error occurred when the lower court admitted DNA evidence obtained as a result of a defective warrant at Respondent’s trial. Jenkins was arrested and tried for physically and sexually assaulting an acquaintance in her apartment. At trial, Jenkins moved to suppress the DNA evidence, provided via a warrant, by arguing that the affidavit did not establish probable cause. The lower court denied the motion and Respondent was convicted of first degree criminal sexual conduct under section 17-25-45(c) of the South Carolina Code.  The Court of Appeals remanded the case for additional evidentiary hearing and found that the search warrant to obtain Respondent’s DNA was invalid. The court of appeals concluded that absent the DNA evidence, the case boiled down to a credibility contest between the victim and Respondent.

This Court reviewed the totality of the evidence presented by the State and found there was abundant, independent evidence in the record from which the jury could have found Respondent guilty. At trial, the victim testified, giving a detailed account of the assault; the State presented evidence of victim’s injuries and results of the rape examination; and evidence at the crime scene (victim’s ripped underwear, blood, and fingerprint evidence) corroborated the victim’s version of events. The Court determined that, “[t]his case was not dependent on the credibility of the victim and Respondent, with the DNA evidence serving as the only physical evidence that Respondent committed the assault.” Rather the Court agreed that while the DNA evidence was compelling, it is merely one way to establish that the accused is the perpetrator. Accordingly, the Court found that admitting the DNA evidence in this case was harmless error and declined to adopt a per se rule that a new trial is mandatory any time DNA evidence is wrongly admitted. The Court reversed the court of appeals’ decision and reinstated Respondent’s conviction.

Justice Pleicones dissented in a separate opinion.

In State v. Barnes, the Court affirmed an order by the circuit court denying the State’s request to reinstate Respondent’s original conviction and sentence that was reversed on appeal because Respondent was denied his constitutional right to represent himself at trial. The Court reasoned that there was no authority, cited by the State nor found by the Court, that permits the remittitur to be recalled and therefore do not find that it is empowered to grant the relief the State sought.

State v. Scott, Horton v. City of Columbia, and Rivera v. Newton were dismissed by the Court as improvidently granted.

State v. Henkel was a reversal of the court of appeals’ decision that found the trial court should have dismissed Respondent’s DUI charge because the videotape did not comply with the statutory requirements found in subsection 56-5-2953(A) for videotaping Respondent’s conduct at the scene of his DUI arrest. Respondent was arrested and charged with DUI. At the scene, the officer read Respondent his Miranda rights and conducted a horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test while respondent was receiving medical care in the ambulance. Later, Respondent was asked to recite the alphabet. The officer audio recorded the administering off both the HGN and ABC tests, to which Respondent failed both tests. Then, the officer, used the in-car camera to read respondent his Miranda rights again. Here, the Court reinstates Respondent’s conviction, finding the videotape of Respondent’s arrest satisfied the DUI recording statute. The Court found that an individual’s conduct is videotaped during a situation provided for in subsection (B), then compliance with subsection (A) must begin at the time videotaping becomes practicable and continue until the arrest is complete. The audio recording of Respondent’s field sobriety tests adequately captured his conduct at the scene of the traffic accident investigation. Additionally, Respondent was given Miranda warnings prior to the time videotaping began. Thus, the Court reversed the court of appeals’ decision.

In the Matter of the Care and Treatment of Christopher Taft, Taft appeals the decision in the civil commitment proceeding where the court found him to be a sexually violent predator. Taft argues that the State failed to present sufficient evidence under the Sexually Violent Predators Act (the SVP Act) that he was likely to reoffend if not confined. This Court found the State’s evidence devoid of proof Taft has a present risk to reoffend. Accordingly, the Court reverses the decision of the court of appeals.

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