524 S.E.2d 837 (S.C. 1999), 25035, State v. Kennerly

Docket Nº:25035.
Citation:524 S.E.2d 837, 337 S.C. 617
Party Name:337 S.C. 617 The STATE of South Carolina, Respondent, v. Patricia KENNERLY, Petitioner.
Case Date:December 20, 1999
Court:Supreme Court of South Carolina
 
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524 S.E.2d 837 (S.C. 1999)

337 S.C. 617

The STATE of South Carolina, Respondent,

v.

Patricia KENNERLY, Petitioner.

No. 25035.

Supreme Court of South Carolina

Dec. 20, 1999.

Heard Nov. 4, 1999.

[337 S.C. 618] Clyde C. Dean, Jr., of Orangeburg, for petitioner.

Attorney General Charles Molony Condon, Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, and Assistant Attorney General Caroline [337 S.C. 619] C. Tiffin, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Walter M. Bailey, Jr., of Summerville, all for respondent.

TOAL, Justice:

Patricia Kennerly ("Kennerly") seeks reversal of her conviction for contempt. We affirm.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Kennerly was a juror in the death penalty trial of Gregory Benjamin tried in April 1996 in Orangeburg County. The jury was sequestered during the trial. After the trial concluded, the solicitor of the First Judicial Circuit filed an unverified petition in the

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General Sessions Court alleging two counts of contempt by Kennerly. The petition alleged: (1) Kennerly did not disclose during individual or group voir dire her relationship with either the defendant Gregory Benjamin or his sister Tina Benjamin, a defense witness; and (2) despite warnings by the Judge to the contrary, Kennerly, on repeated occasions during the guilt phase of the trial, initiated discussions about the case with other jurors. Kennerly stated to fellow jurors she knew the defendant and his sister, Tina, and would not vote for the death penalty. The solicitor alleged that Kennerly's purpose was to "undermine the entire trial and was contemptuous of this Court and the entire judicial system."

A contempt hearing was held on October 28, 1996. On December 11, 1996, the trial court found Kennerly in contempt and sentenced her to six months imprisonment. The Court of Appeals affirmed Kennerly's conviction on June 15, 1998. This Court granted certiorari and the sole issue on appeal is:

Did the Court of Appeals err in holding that the accused was not entitled to dismissal of contempt charges where the alleged contempt occurred during voir dire and conversations with other jurors during the trial, and the proceedings against her were commenced by an unverified petition?

LAW/ANALYSIS

Kennerly argues that since the alleged contempt occurred outside the sight and hearing of the...

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