Opinion from the South Carolina Court of Appeals



On Wednesday, the South Carolina Court of Appeals published an opinion in State v. Edwards.

In this criminal appeal, Cleophus Edwards appealed his conviction for murder, first-degree burglary, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. In his appeal, he argued that the circuit court erred in admitting into evidence:  (1) a laptop computer, (2) clothing and shoes from a suitcase, and (3) the results of DNA analysis and shoe imprint comparisons.

Edwards was arrested in his home for a probation violation. While at his residence, police found a red Acer laptop that matched one previously reported missing at a home invasion resulting in a homicide. Police question Edwards about the laptop and he confessed to stabbing and robbing the victim. At trial, Edwards moved to suppress evidence of the laptop arguing that the search and seizure violated in 4th amendment rights. The police officer. that was at both crime scenes and that found the laptop, testified that the the unusual brand, color, and screen width of the computer caught his attention and lead him to locate the serial number to see if it matched. Edwards further argued that the computer was “an innocent object” and simply observing a computer of the same brand and color as the missing computer was insufficient to give the office reasonable suspicion. Edwards moved to suppress the seizure of the items in the suitcase including clothes and shoes arguing that the lacked the necessary reasonable suspicion. The court allowed in the evidence over Edward’s objection. The jury convicted Edwards of murder, first-degree burglary, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. He was sentenced to concurrent life sentences.

This Court found that the circuit court properly denied the motions to suppress and properly admitted the challenged evidence. As a part of his probation agreement and pursuant to S.C. Code Ann Section 24-21-430 (Supp. 2015), Edwards signed a waiver acknowledging that he was subject to warrantless searches based upon an officer’s reasonable suspicions. Although, the Court found that the officer’s movement of the laptop to view the serial number constituted a search under the 4th amendment, this Court concluded that the search was not found to a violation of his 4th amendment rights. Further, the Court found that the inclusion of the clothes, shoes and suitcase were not 4th amendment violations for the same reasons. Accordingly the Court affirmed the decisions of the trial court.

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