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A jury convicted Raheem King of the attempted murder and armed robbery of a Charleston cab driver and the related charge of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. The trial judge sentenced King to an aggregate term of thirty-five years' imprisonment for armed robbery and the weapon charge, and a concurrent term of ten years' imprisonment for attempted murder. On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed King's convictions for armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, but reversed and remanded King's conviction for attempted murder. The Court of Appeals found the trial court: (1) erred in its jury charge, "[a] specific intent to kill is not an element of attempted murder but it must be a general intent to commit serious bodily harm"; (2) erred in admitting the hearsay testimony of an investigating officer; (3) correctly charged the jury the permissive inference of malice from the use of a deadly weapon; and (4) did not abuse his discretion in allowing the State to publish to the jury a recording of a phone call made by King while he was incarcerated. The South Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals' decision to affirm King's convictions for armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime and to reverse and remand King's conviction for attempted murder. Yet, the Court clarified that the offense of attempted murder, as codified in section 16-3-29 of the South Carolina Code and viewed in its entirety, required a specific intent to kill. Furthermore, the Court concluded that a police officer’s testimony at trial should not have been admitted as it constituted inadmissible hearsay regardless of the fact that it was offered by the State to explain the police investigation. However, like the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court found the admission of this testimony constituted harmless error. In contrast to the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court held the trial judge erred in admitting the recording of King's detention center phone call. Nevertheless, the admission of the recording also constituted harmless error. View "South Carolina v. King" on Justia Law

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Shawn Wyatt appealed his convictions for attempting to furnish contraband to a prisoner and possession with intent to distribute cocaine, cocaine base, and marijuana. He argued the trial court erred by not suppressing two eyewitness identifications. The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision not to suppress the primary identification. The Court found, however, the police identification procedure was not unnecessarily suggestive, and thus the trial court should have addressed the suppression question only under the first prong of Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972). As to the other identification, the Court found no error and affirmed Wyatt's convictions. View "South Carolina v. Wyatt" on Justia Law

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Farid Mangal was convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor, lewd act upon a child, and incest. After his convictions were affirmed, Mangal filed an action for post-conviction relief (PCR), arguing his trial counsel was ineffective for not objecting to improper bolstering testimony. The PCR court refused to rule on the improper bolstering issue because the court found Mangal did not raise it in his PCR application or at the PCR hearing. The court of appeals reversed, finding the improper bolstering issue was raised to the PCR court. The court of appeals then proceeded to grant PCR on the merits of the issue. In reversing the court of appeals, the South Carolina Supreme Court determined the court of appeals relied on several additional portions of the testimony at issue here that was not revealed to the PCR court at any point during the PCR hearing. With regard to the PCR court's exercise of discretion in refusing to address the improper bolstering issue, Mangal filed a Rule 59(e) motion asking the PCR court to consider the claim. The PCR court denied the motion, finding "no testimonial evidence . . . was presented in support of these allegations." The South Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the PCR court and reinstated its order. View "Mangal v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

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Petitioners South Carolina Public Interest Foundation and Edward Sloan, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, filed a declaratory judgment action against Respondents the South Carolina Department of Transportation ("SCDOT") and John Walsh, Deputy Secretary of Transportation for Engineering of SCDOT. Petitioners sought a declaration that SCDOT's inspection of three privately owned bridges violated sections 5 and 11 of article X of the South Carolina Constitution, which Petitioners asserted prohibit the expenditure of public funds for a private purpose. The trial court granted Respondents' motion for summary judgment, finding: Petitioners lacked standing; the controversy was moot and did not fall under any of the exceptions to the mootness doctrine; and Respondents' actions were not ultra vires or unconstitutional. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court concluded, after review: (1) Petitioners established public importance standing; (2) the Court of Appeals erred in concluding this matter was not justiciable because Respondents admitted their conduct was wrongful; (3) Respondents' inspection of the privately owned bridges was unconstitutional because it contravened the constitutional requirement that the expenditure of public funds serve a public purpose. The Court concluded Respondents' conduct was unconstitutional and ultra vires, and reversed the Court of Appeals' judgment. View "South Carolina Public Interest Foundation v. SCDOT" on Justia Law

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Renwick Mose appealed the dismissal of his application for post-conviction relief. The application was denied for being three days past the statute of limitations period ended, but Mose contended he delivered the application to prison authorities within the statutory period. Mose sought reversal of the PCR judge's ruling so that he could receive a hearing on the merits of his application. After review, the South Carolina Supreme Court concluded the PCR judge erred in summarily dismissing Mose's PCR application as untimely, reversed and remanded for a hearing on the merits. View "Mose v. South Carolina" on Justia Law

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The Respondents were the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina (Disassociated Diocese); the Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina (Trustees); and thirty-six individual parishes that have aligned themselves with the Disassociated Diocese (Parishes). The Appellants were The Episcopal Church a/k/a The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the diocese that remained affiliated with the TEC (Associated Diocese). This case was an appeal of a circuit court order holding that the Appellants have no legal or equitable interests in certain real and personal property located in South Carolina, and enjoining the Appellants from utilizing certain disputed service marks and names. “Overly simplified,” the issue in this case was whether the Disassociated Diocese, the Trustees, and the Parishes or appellant Associated Diocese and its parishes "owned" the real, personal, and intellectual property that the Appellants alleged was held in trust for the benefit of TEC in 2009. After a lengthy bench trial, and based upon the application of "neutral principles of law," the circuit court found in favor of the Respondents on property and the service mark causes of action. The circuit court order was reversed in part, and affirmed in part, with each South Carolina Supreme Court justice writing separately. Justice Hearn joined Acting Justice Pleicones and Chief Justice Beatty in reversing the trial court as to the twenty-nine parishes that documented their reaffirmation to the National Church. Chief Justice Beatty joined Acting Justice Toal and Justice Kittredge with respect to the remaining seven parishes. Four justices agreed the Dennis Canon created an enforceable trust, but Justice Kittredge disagreed with the majority and would have found the trust was revoked at the time of the schism. Moreover, though Acting Justice Pleicones and Justice Hearn believed ecclesiastical deference was required in this case, both opinions found all thirty-six parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon such that a legally cognizable trust was created in favor of the National Church. View "Protestant Episcopal Church v. Episcopal Church" on Justia Law

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The Respondents were the Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina (Disassociated Diocese); the Trustees of the Protestant Episcopal Church in South Carolina (Trustees); and thirty-six individual parishes that have aligned themselves with the Disassociated Diocese (Parishes). The Appellants were The Episcopal Church a/k/a The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America (TEC) and The Episcopal Church in South Carolina, the diocese that remained affiliated with the TEC (Associated Diocese). This case was an appeal of a circuit court order holding that the Appellants have no legal or equitable interests in certain real and personal property located in South Carolina, and enjoining the Appellants from utilizing certain disputed service marks and names. “Overly simplified,” the issue in this case was whether the Disassociated Diocese, the Trustees, and the Parishes or appellant Associated Diocese and its parishes "owned" the real, personal, and intellectual property that the Appellants alleged was held in trust for the benefit of TEC in 2009. After a lengthy bench trial, and based upon the application of "neutral principles of law," the circuit court found in favor of the Respondents on property and the service mark causes of action. The circuit court order was reversed in part, and affirmed in part, with each South Carolina Supreme Court justice writing separately. Justice Hearn joined Acting Justice Pleicones and Chief Justice Beatty in reversing the trial court as to the twenty-nine parishes that documented their reaffirmation to the National Church. Chief Justice Beatty joined Acting Justice Toal and Justice Kittredge with respect to the remaining seven parishes. Four justices agreed the Dennis Canon created an enforceable trust, but Justice Kittredge disagreed with the majority and would have found the trust was revoked at the time of the schism. Moreover, though Acting Justice Pleicones and Justice Hearn believed ecclesiastical deference was required in this case, both opinions found all thirty-six parishes acceded to the Dennis Canon such that a legally cognizable trust was created in favor of the National Church. View "Protestant Episcopal Church v. Episcopal Church" on Justia Law

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A minor may bring an action for her own medical expenses if she the "real party in interest.” Alexia L. was born on April 5, 2007, delivered by obstetrician Gregory Miller, M.D. Alexia's mother, Angela Patton, filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in November 2009 against Dr. Miller and the professional association where he practiced, Rock Hill Gynecological & Obstetrical Associates, P.A. Patton's theory of liability was that the defendant improperly managed the resolution of shoulder dystocia, and that such mismanagement caused permanent injury to Alexia's left-sided brachial plexus nerves. Patton sought damages for Alexia's pain and suffering, disability, loss of earning capacity, and other harm she contends resulted from this injury. Patton also sought damages for Alexia's medical expenses. Patton filed the lawsuit only in her capacity as Alexia's "next friend." In March 2012, Patton filed a separate medical malpractice lawsuit against Amisub of South Carolina, which owned and did business as Piedmont Medical Center. Patton did not make any claim in her individual capacity; the only claims she made were Alexia's claims, which she made in her representative capacity as Alexia's next friend. Defendants moved to dismiss based on Patton’s status as “next friend” to Alexia. The trial court granted summary judgment, finding Patton could recover for Alexia's medical expenses if she sued in her own capacity, but not as Alexia's representative. The court found "the minor plaintiff may not maintain a cause of action for [her medical] expenses in her own right." The South Carolina Supreme Court did “nothing more” than apply the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. Pursuant to Rule 17(c), "Whenever a minor . . . has a representative, . . . the representative may sue . . . on behalf of the minor . . . ." If a dispute arises as to whether that representative is "the real party in interest," Rule 17(a) governs the dispute. If the representative seeks to amend the complaint, Rules 15(a), 15(c), and 17(a) provide there should be no unnecessary dismissal, but rather the parties and the trial court should work to reach the merits. In this case, the circuit court failed to apply these Rules, and unnecessarily dismissed a claim it should have tried on the merits. View "Patton v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Daufuskie Island Utility Company ("DIUC") appeals an order of the South Carolina Public Service Commission ("Commission") granting only thirty-nine percent of the additional revenue requested in its application. DIUC applied to the Commission for approval of a new rate schedule which would provide a 108.9% revenue increase. Due to the substantial increase in its tax liability and its inability to seek further revenue increases until July 2014, DIUC entered into an agreement with Beaufort County to pay the back taxes for years 2012, 2013, 2014, and the projected tax for 2015. Critical to this case was the ownership of an elevated water tank, well, water pump, system pipes, and other DIUC equipment located on a site which was sold at a tax sale in 2010 (“Elevated Tank Site”). Due to a clerical error, tax on the property was not paid, and DIUC did not discover the property had been sold until 2012. Although the tax deed purported to convey the property "all and singular . . . with the appurtenances," DIUC presented testimony from the Beaufort County Treasurer, Maria Walls, that the tax deed did not convey "the elevated water tank, the well, the water pump, system pipes, or other DIUC property located on the Elevated Tank[] Site." Despite providing no evidence to the contrary to support its recommendation, ORS proposed excluding the value of the utility equipment located on the property when calculating DIUC's rate base and property taxes. A hearing on the merits of DIUC's application was held in October 2015. The day before the hearing, several intervening property owner associations (POAs) filed a Settlement Agreement they had entered with ORS for the Commission's consideration. Pursuant to the Agreement, ORS and the POAs stipulated to each party's testimony and exhibits in the record, and the parties agreed to accept all of ORS's adjustments and recommendations, with the exception of the bad debt expense for which they agreed to adopt DIUC's proposal.5 At the hearing, DIUC objected to the admission of the Settlement Agreement, arguing it was irrelevant and prejudicial because it bolstered ORS's recommendations without providing any new or additional evidence to support them. Over DIUC's objection, the Commission admitted the Agreement, reasoning it was more probative than prejudicial. The South Carolina Supreme Court found the Commission erred in admitting evidence of the POA settlement; and the Commission’s findings and conclusions with respect to DIUC’s property taxes were not supported by substantial evidence. The Court remanded for a new hearing. View "Daufuskie Island v. Regulatory Staff" on Justia Law

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The issue in this case arose from classifications contained in South Carolina's domestic violence statutes. Specifically, the classifications provided that only "Household member[s]," defined as, inter alia, a "male and female who are cohabiting or formerly have cohabited," are protected under the statutes. Petitioner challenged these classifications, arguing they unconstitutionally exclude unmarried, cohabiting or formerly cohabiting, same-sex couples from the protection of the domestic violence statutes. Petitioner asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to declare that the subsections which exclude same-sex couples, S.C. Code Ann. 16-25-10(3)(d) (effective June 4, 2015), of the Domestic Violence Reform Act, and S.C. Code Ann. 20-4-20(b)(iv) (effective June 4, 2015), of the Protection from Criminal Domestic Violence Act (collectively "the Acts"), violated the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Court agreed the definitional subsections at issue offend the Equal Protection Clause, and, therefore, struck the subsection from each Act. View "Doe v. South Carolina" on Justia Law