State v. Adams, No. 21581

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtHARWELL; LEWIS; LEWIS
Citation283 S.E.2d 582,277 S.C. 115
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Sylvester Lewis ADAMS, Appellant.
Decision Date06 October 1981
Docket NumberNo. 21581

Page 582

283 S.E.2d 582
277 S.C. 115
The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Sylvester Lewis ADAMS, Appellant.
No. 21581.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Oct. 6, 1981.

Page 583

[277 S.C. 117] David I. Bruck and Chief Atty. John L. Sweeny of S. C. Office of Appellate Defense, Columbia, for appellant.

Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod and Asst. Attys. Gen. Kay G. Crowe and Lindy P. Funkhouser, Columbia, and Sol. William L. Ferguson, York, for respondent.

HARWELL, Justice:

Sylvester Lewis Adams was found guilty of housebreaking and of the kidnapping and murder of Brian Chambers in the first phase of a bifurcated capital trial. He was sentenced to death upon recommendation of the jury at the conclusion of the second phase. We reverse the convictions, vacate the death penalty and remand for a new trial.

[277 S.C. 118] The appellant asserts that the trial judge erred during the guilt or innocence phase of the trial by refusing to permit his

Page 584

trial counsel to inspect notes which one of the State's police witnesses was actually referring to during his testimony. His testimony concerned, primarily, the chain of custody of the physical evidence introduced at trial. We agree that the refusal to permit appellant's trial counsel an opportunity to examine these notes for purposes of cross-examination constitutes reversible error.

In State v. Tyner, 273 S.C. 646, 258 S.E.2d 559, 565 (1979) we stated:

"Where a document is used by a witness to refresh his recollection, the adverse party has a right to have the memorandum available to him for cross-examination."

See also, McCormick on Evidence, Section 9, P. 17 (2d Ed. 1972). We recently applied and extended the principle as stated in Tyner to allow opposing counsel the opportunity to examine notes a witness uses to refresh his memory with prior to trial. State v. Hamilton, S.C., 276 S.E.2d 784 (1981).

Counsel should have been allowed to inspect any of the notes that the witness actually referred to.

Appellant Adams chose to take the witness stand during the guilt or innocence phase of the bifurcated trial thus subjecting himself to cross-examination. During this cross-examination the following colloquy took place:

"Q. You've read this [confession] haven't you?

"A. I've read it I don't know how many times.

"Q. And wasn't that the most cruel, brutal thing that anybody could do to anybody?

"A. I did not do that to him.

"Q. I'm asking you, what's in this statement--

"A. I did not do that.

"Q. I'm asking you, you read the statement didn't you?

"A. Right.

"Q. Is that one of the most cruel and brutal things that you can even think of?

"A. Repeat that again now?

[277 S.C. 119] "Q. The contents of this statement, whoever did this, is one of the most cruel and brutal things that has ever happened, whoever did it?

"A. None of those words on there is mine. It's those detectives'.

"Q. I didn't say they were your's. I'm asking you another question. Isn't this one of the worst, cruel things that anybody could do to a little boy? Isn't it?

"A. Yeah.

"Q. And that person doesn't deserve to leave [sic], does he, that did that to him.

"A. Those words was made up, I don't know if that's the truth or not, but the words made up on the statement, I really can't say.

"Q. Anybody that would do something like this ought to die, shouldn't they?

"A. I really can't say if that's the truth. The words were made up on the statement.

"Q. I'm not saying that. I'm asking you if this actually happened, whoever did it should die, shouldn't they?

"A. Yeah, whoever done it.

"Q. That's all."

Although no timely objection was raised at trial, in a capital case this Court will review the record in favorem vitae. Thus we agree with appellant's argument on appeal that the solicitor's questions were highly improper and constitute prejudicial error.

Our law on capital trials provides for a bifurcated proceeding. Section 16-3-20, Code of Laws of South Carolina (1976). At issue in the first trial is whether the defendant is innocent or guilty of murder. At issue in the second trial is whether the defendant deserves to live or die.

Page 585

When a defendant waives his privilege against self-incrimination by electing to take the witness stand in the first phase of the trial, he opens himself to impeachment only as to issues related to his innocence or guilt. Given the structure of the capital proceeding, the defendant who testifies [277 S.C. 120] in the first phase may nonetheless choose to exercise his privilege at the second phase and not testify. Thus, to delve into the punishment area while cross-examining a defendant during the guilt-or-innocence phase of the trial is a violation of his constitutional guarantee against coerced self-incrimination.

Beyond the serious Fifth Amendment violation, the questions propounded here were not only irrelevant as to the issue then before the jury, they also were designed to create a response, based on opinion, going to an ultimate issue reserved for the jury's determination. The effect of having the appellant unwittingly state that he deserved the death sentence prior to the jury having even considered the matter created an "arbitrary factor" intolerable to this Court. Section 16-3-25(C) of the Code.

At the conclusion of the presentation of the evidence and of arguments by counsel at the first phase of the trial, the trial judge undertook to declare the law to the jury, but during the course of his instructions he somehow charged the 1974 death penalty act. The 1974 legislation which provided for mandatory death sentences had been declared unconstitutional by this Court and repealed by the legislature prior to this trial. See our decision in State v. Rumsey, 267 S.C. 236, 226 S.E.2d 894 (1976), based on decisions of the United States Supreme Court in Woodson v. North Carolina, 428 U.S. 280, 96 S.Ct. 2978, 49 L.Ed.2d 944 (1976) and Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325, 96 S.Ct. 3001, 49 L.Ed.2d 974 (1976). Although the proper capital punishment law was subsequently charged at the second phase of the trial, the trial judge never cured his error at the first phase. The appellant argues that the improper charge was a reversible error. We agree.

This matter does not merit lengthy discussion. Article V, Section 17 of the South Carolina Constitution mandates that the judge shall declare the law to the jury. It would seem axiomatic that the law declared must be the current and correct law. A full curative instruction should have immediately been given to this jury. To simply superimpose the 1977 Act over the unconstitutional 1974 Act served only to foster confusion and prejudice.

[277 S.C. 121] At trial appellant Adams' confession became an issue. In order to establish its voluntariness, the State introduced the testimony of the police officers who heard and transcribed it as well as the testimony of an attorney.

Thomas McKinney was originally appointed to represent the appellant. At the time of his appointment, McKinney testified that he found Adams in a state of willingness to render a confession but that he advised against this. The police officers also asserted that Adams was quite determined to give a confession. McKinney stated that he had...

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65 practice notes
  • State v. Copeland, No. 21808
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 10, 1982
    ...erroneous, should not be permitted to profit ... from the court's assent to an improper trial strategy. Roberts relies on State v. Adams, 277 S.C. 115, 283 S.E.2d 582 (1981), to support his position that his testimony at the sentencing phase cannot be used against him in determining his gui......
  • People v. Kimble
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • February 25, 1988
    ...and critically analyze, as we did in Dixon, the potential effect of such an instruction on a penalty jury. In State v. Adams (1981), 277 S.C. 115, 283 S.E.2d 582, the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected an assertion that the jury should have been instructed as advocated here, reasoning as......
  • Calhoun v. State, Nos. 129
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • November 21, 1983
    ...the defendant to life imprisonment. We disagree. "The trial judge correctly stated the applicable law. We stated in State v. Adams [277 S.C. 115], 283 S.E.2d [582,] 587 [ (1981) The language of [§ 16-3-20(C) ] provides that where a sentence of death is not recommended by the jury, a life se......
  • State v. Meeks, No. 01-0263-CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 11, 2003
    ...the attorney's opinions are based upon discussions with the client); Bishop v. Superior Court, 724 P.2d 23 (Ariz. 1986); State v. Adams, 283 S.E.2d 582 (S.C. 1981) (any "professional impressions" drawn by the attorney should be ¶ 37. These cases hold that it is difficult, or nearly impossib......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
65 cases
  • State v. Copeland, No. 21808
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 10, 1982
    ...erroneous, should not be permitted to profit ... from the court's assent to an improper trial strategy. Roberts relies on State v. Adams, 277 S.C. 115, 283 S.E.2d 582 (1981), to support his position that his testimony at the sentencing phase cannot be used against him in determining his gui......
  • People v. Kimble
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • February 25, 1988
    ...and critically analyze, as we did in Dixon, the potential effect of such an instruction on a penalty jury. In State v. Adams (1981), 277 S.C. 115, 283 S.E.2d 582, the South Carolina Supreme Court rejected an assertion that the jury should have been instructed as advocated here, reasoning as......
  • Calhoun v. State, Nos. 129
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • November 21, 1983
    ...the defendant to life imprisonment. We disagree. "The trial judge correctly stated the applicable law. We stated in State v. Adams [277 S.C. 115], 283 S.E.2d [582,] 587 [ (1981) The language of [§ 16-3-20(C) ] provides that where a sentence of death is not recommended by the jury, a life se......
  • State v. Meeks, No. 01-0263-CR.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 11, 2003
    ...the attorney's opinions are based upon discussions with the client); Bishop v. Superior Court, 724 P.2d 23 (Ariz. 1986); State v. Adams, 283 S.E.2d 582 (S.C. 1981) (any "professional impressions" drawn by the attorney should be ¶ 37. These cases hold that it is difficult, or nearly impossib......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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