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A jury found Kenneth Campbell met the statutory definition of a sexually violent predator (SVP) under South Carolina's SVP Act, S.C. Code Ann. sections 44-48-10 to -170 (2018). Campbell appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed. On petition of certiorari, Campbell contended the court of appeals erred in affirming his civil commitment because the State inappropriately impeached the credibility of Campbell's expert witness by introducing evidence of a recent arrest warrant for an unrelated sex offender whom the expert had opined was unlikely to reoffend. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the admission of testimony about a mere arrest warrant of an unrelated individual in a collateral matter unduly prejudiced Campbell and, therefore, reversed and remanded for a new commitment proceeding. View "In the Matter of the Care & Treatment of Campbell" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Dr. John Roberts and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) sought a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision in Johnson v. Roberts, 812 S.E.2d 207 (Ct. App. 2018). Respondent Clair Johnson filed a medical malpractice action alleging Roberts and MUSC negligently treated Johnson with electroconvulsive therapy. Roberts and MUSC moved for summary judgment, contending the six-year statute of repose barred her claims, and the circuit court agreed, holding the repose period began on the first date of treatment. On appeal, the court of appeals reversed, relying on its decision in Marshall v. Dodds, 789 S.E.2d 88 (Ct. App. 2016), to hold that there was evidence to support Johnson's claim that Roberts and MUSC acted negligently within six years of filing her lawsuit. The South Carolina Supreme Court recently affirmed as modified the court of appeals' Marshall decision, holding the statute of repose began to run after each occurrence. In this case, Roberts and MUSC contended the court of appeals erred in finding Johnson's claims preserved for review and in holding the statute of repose began after each occurrence. The Supreme Court disagreed and affirmed. View "Johnson v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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Jalann Williams was convicted for murder, shooting and killing his victim with an unlawfully-possessed pistol defendant intentionally brought to an illegal drug transaction. Williams argued the trial court erred in refusing to charge the jury with the law of self-defense. The South Carolina Supreme Court found defendant was at fault in bringing on the violence. View "South Carolina v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The State of South Carolina petitioned for certiorari review of the Court of Appeals' decision in South Carolina v. Andrews, 818 S.E.2d 227 (Ct. App. 2018). After a fatal shooting at Respondent's home, Respondent was indicted for murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. Respondent moved to dismiss the charges pursuant to the Protection of Persons and Property Act on the ground he shot the victim in self-defense. However, another eyewitness testified the victim was attempting to peacefully leave Respondent's home and that Respondent followed the victim out of the home, shooting him on the porch. Additional forensic evidence was presented at the hearing, but it did not conclusively support either version of events. Ultimately, the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's denial of immunity, but reversed Respondent's convictions based on a separate evidentiary issue. To the extent the Court of Appeals relied upon the portion of South Carolina v. Curry, 752 S.E.2d 263 (2013). relating to the directed verdict procedural posture in affirming the circuit court's denial of immunity in this case, the South Carolina Supreme Court vacated that portion of the Court of Appeals' opinion and affirmed as modified. View "South Carolina v. Andrews" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Gerald Williams was convicted of three counts of attempted murder related to his alleged shooting into an occupied mobile home where he knew his intended victim was present, but did not realize two other individuals were also present. Under the common law, transferred intent “makes a whole crime out of two halves by joining the intent to harm one victim with the actual harm caused to another.” Normally, transferred intent applies to general-intent crimes. However, attempted murder is a specific-intent crime in South Carolina, and the South Carolina Supreme Court had not yet addressed whether transferred intent could supply the requisite mens rea for such a crime. Because this case was tried without objection as a general-intent crime, the Supreme Court found the doctrine of transferred intent applied in this instance. The Court declined to address the applicability of transferred intent to a specific-intent crime such as attempted murder and vacate the portion of the court of appeals' opinion dealing with this issue. The Court found in light of the facts of this case, there was no error in failing to charge the jury on the lesser-included offense of assault and battery in the first degree (AB-1st). The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the court of appeals as modified. View "South Carolina v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit certified a question of South Carolina law to the South Carolina Supreme Court. The underlying case was an insurance bad faith action against an insurance company for its failure to defend its insured in a construction defect action. The insured settled the construction defect action and brought a bad faith tort action. When the insurer asserted it acted in good faith in denying coverage, the insured sought to discover the reasons why the insurer denied coverage. According to the insurer, the discovery requests included communications protected by the attorney-client relationship. The federal district court reviewed the parties' respective positions, determined the insured had established a prima facie case of bad faith, and ordered the questioned documents to be submitted to the court for an in camera inspection. The insurer then sought a writ of mandamus from the Fourth Circuit to vacate the district court's order regarding the discovery dispute. In turn, the Fourth Circuit asked the South Carolina Supreme Court whether state law supported the application of the "at issue" exception to attorney-client privilege such that a party may waive the privilege by denying liability in its answer. The South Carolina Supreme Court found that the parties, especially the insured, contended the certified question did not accurately represent the correct posture of the case. In fact, the insured conceded the narrow question presented required an answer in the negative. The Supreme Court agreed, finding “little authority for the untenable proposition that the mere denial of liability in a pleading constitutes a waiver of the attorney-client privilege.” The Court elected to analyze the issue narrowly in the limited context of a bad faith action against an insurer, and felt constrained to answer the certified question as follows: "No, denying liability and/or asserting good faith in the answer does not, standing alone, place the privileged communications 'at issue' in the case." View "Mt. Hawley Insurance Company v. Contravest Construction" on Justia Law

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In 2013, respondent Frederick Pfeiffer pled guilty to criminal conspiracy and two counts of securities fraud. The State and Pfeiffer entered into a negotiated plea. It was uncontested that the trial court sentenced Pfeiffer in accordance with the negotiated plea agreement. A dispute quickly arose with the South Carolina Department of Correction's interpretation of the sentencing sheets. To resolve any confusion, Pfeiffer timely filed his first Rule 29(a) motion to correct the clerical errors, which resulted in a hearing. Without objection, the trial court entered an amended sentence clarifying the sentencing sheets. On the same date, Pfeiffer's codefendant was sentenced. Pfeiffer believed his sentence was unduly harsh in comparison to his codefendant's sentence. As a result, twenty-nine days after the original sentence, Pfeiffer filed a second Rule 29(a) motion seeking a reduced sentence based on the codefendant's lighter sentence. As noted, there was never a suggestion Pfeiffer's original sentence was contrary to the negotiated plea agreement. Rather, the negotiated plea specifically allowed the State to control the order and timing of Pfeiffer and his codefendant's pleas and sentencing proceedings. The State argued that Pfeiffer's second motion was untimely because more than ten days had elapsed since the original sentencing and the second motion was in no manner related to the first. The trial court, however, found the motion was timely, and granted Pfeiffer's second motion by reducing his sentence. The issue this case presented for the South Carolina Supreme Court's review centered on whether, after the disposition of an initial Rule 29(a) motion, and more than ten days after imposition of the sentence, did the trial court have jurisdiction to hear a second Rule 29(a) motion? The Court held the trial court did not have jurisdiction to hear a second Rule 29(a) motion, unless the second motion challenged something that was altered from the original sentence as a result of the initial Rule 29(a) motion. View "South Carolina v. Pfeiffer" on Justia Law

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Daniel Hamrick appealed his conviction for felony driving under the influence resulting in great bodily injury. Hamrick argued the trial court erred in: (1) denying his motion to suppress test results from blood drawn without a search warrant; (2) admitting the blood test results into evidence despite a violation of the three-hour statutory time limit for drawing blood; (3) permitting a police officer to give opinion testimony on accident reconstruction; and (4) excluding from evidence a video recording of an experiment conducted by Hamrick's expert in accident reconstruction. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the trial court erred in admitting the officer's opinion testimony, and accordingly reversed and remanded for a new trial. View "Hamrick v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Denzel Heyward was indicted for murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence for an incident that resulted in the death of Kadeem Chambers. The jury could not reach a verdict as to murder, but found Heyward guilty of the remaining charges. The trial court sentenced him to an aggregate term of 65 years. Heyward appealed, claiming the trial court erred by admitting a photo lineup identification, and by finding his counsel opened the door to the admission of testimony that he had previously committed domestic violence. The court of appeals affirmed. With respect to the domestic violence issue, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed, “we do not believe counsel opened the door to allegations Heyward physically abused [Quasantrina ]Rivers.” The Supreme Court believed the State used the open-door doctrine to introduce propensity evidence, with no evidentiary support for the court's decision. This, the Court concluded, amounted to an abuse of discretion. “The evidence was introduced solely to demonstrate Heyward's poor character, and given the close case presented, we are unable to find the error was not prejudicial.” The matter was remanded for a new trial. View "South Carolina v. Heyward" on Justia Law

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In October of 2007, Petitioner Otha Delaney bought a 2003 Chevrolet pick-up truck from Coliseum Motors pursuant to a retail installment sales contract. The dealership subsequently assigned the contract to Respondent First Financial of Charleston, Inc., which acquired a security interest under the UCC. After Delaney failed to make payments, First Financial lawfully repossessed the truck, and on May 2, 2008, it sent Delaney a letter entitled, "Notice of Private Sale of Collateral." Over seven months later, on December 15, 2008, First Financial sold the truck. On October 3, 2011, more than three years after sending notice but less than three years from the sale of the truck, Delaney filed suit against First Financial, seeking to represent a class of individuals who had received notice that allegedly failed to comply with certain requirements in Article 9. After a hearing, the trial court found: (1) the remedy Delaney sought pursuant to section 36-9-625(c)(2) South Carolina Code (2003) was a statutory penalty; (2) the six-year Article 2 limitations period did not apply because Delaney failed to plead breach of contract, the claim solely concerned deficient notice under Article 9, and even if Article 2 applied, the more specific limitations period on penalties governed; and (3) under either limitation period, Delaney's claim was time-barred as his action accrued upon receipt of the allegedly deficient notice. To this last point, the South Carolina Supreme Court determined the trial court erred, holding the notice of disposition of collateral did not accrue until First Financial disposed of the collateral. Accordingly, because Delaney filed this action within three years from that date, the matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Delaney v. First Financial" on Justia Law