State v. Al-Amin, No. 3602.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtANDERSON, J.
Citation578 S.E.2d 32,353 S.C. 405
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Raquib Abdul AL-AMIN, Appellant.
Decision Date03 March 2003
Docket NumberNo. 3602.

353 S.C. 405
578 S.E.2d 32

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Raquib Abdul AL-AMIN, Appellant

No. 3602.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard January 14, 2003.

Decided March 3, 2003.


353 S.C. 408
Chief Attorney Daniel T. Stacey, of the SC Office of Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for Appellant

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka; and Solicitor Warren B. Giese, all of Columbia, for Respondent.

ANDERSON, J.:

Raquib Al-Amin was convicted of murder. Al-Amin appeals alleging the Circuit Court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict. Additionally, Al-Amin asserts he is

353 S.C. 409
entitled to a new trial because the Circuit Court allowed admission of his prior armed robbery conviction and excluded Al-Amin's testimony implicating third party guilt. We affirm

FACTS/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Around 3:30 p.m. on August 25, 1997, Michael Watkins, the manager of Churchill Place Apartments, was returning to the apartment complex and pulled into the parking lot. When Watkins looked out of his windshield, he noticed Al-Amin dragging something out of his apartment that was "consistent with being a [human] body" wrapped in a pink blanket. When Al-Amin became aware of Watkins watching him, he dragged the blanket back into his apartment. Watkins became suspicious. After he parked, Watkins decided to wait in his vehicle for several more minutes. About five minutes later, Al-Amin walked out of the apartment and noticed Watkins was still sitting in his vehicle. Al-Amin smiled at Watkins, waved his hand at him, and went upstairs as if nothing was going on. Within minutes, Al-Amin returned to his apartment.

After this incident, Watkins went to his office. At approximately 4:00 p.m., while in his office, Watkins observed Al-Amin walking across the catwalk from apartment 220, which was the victim's apartment. At 5:30 p.m., Watkins, still suspicious, checked the dumpster closest to Al-Amin's apartment. Watkins found the pink blanket which he had earlier seen Al-Amin dragging from his apartment. Watkins pulled aside part of the blanket and saw a human arm. He then called 911.

Officer Michael Mahon, with the City of Columbia Police Department, responded to the 911 call. Watkins advised Officer Mahon that he had seen Al-Amin dragging a body wrapped in a blanket from apartment four to the dumpster. Officer Mahon walked over to the dumpster and confirmed there was a body in the dumpster. Officer Mahon stated he could "see what looked like a patch of brown skin, maybe part of an arm or a leg." After verifying there was a body in the dumpster, Officer Mahon called for an ambulance crew. Several officers arrived to help secure the scene and provide back-up.

353 S.C. 410
Officer Dee Ann Johnson was present when the body was removed from the dumpster. According to Officer Johnson, "there was bleeding from the nose and there was a gash over [the victim's] left eye and also some marks on her neck." The coroner discovered a crack pipe in the crotch area of the victim's shorts

Watkins related his story to the police. Thereafter, a warrant was obtained to search Al-Amin's apartment. While searching the apartment, the police found: a large construction bolt which had black electrical tape wrapped around the threaded end with the victim's blood on it; a shower curtain with human blood on it; carpet with human blood on it; a savings account bank book with Al-Amin's name on it; a box of checks with Al-Amin's name on them; and Al-Amin's bills with his name and the apartment's address on them.

At the autopsy, Investigator Walter E. Bales "noticed there was blunt trauma or striking injuries on the victim ... [that] looked like they were caused by the head of [the] bolt" found in Al-Amin's apartment. The pathologist who performed the victim's autopsy testified there were four deep, full-thickness lacerations, which were all slightly curved, on the victim's face and head. When asked "[w]hat type of blow would cause injury all the way to someone's bone in their head," the pathologist opined: "That's an injury with significant force that is generally caused by a heavy object being swung with force." The pathologist further declared the victim had injuries to her neck that were "associated with someone who has been manually strangled" and that she most likely died of the strangulation, although the blows to the head were sufficient to have caused death.

Al-Amin was charged with murder. He was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.

LAW/ANALYSIS

I. Directed Verdict Motion

Al-Amin argues the Circuit Court erred when it denied his motion for directed verdict because the State failed to present sufficient evidence to convict him on the murder charge. We disagree.

353 S.C. 411
In reviewing the denial of a motion for a directed verdict in a criminal case, an appellate court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State. State v. Harris, 351 S.C. 643, 572 S.E.2d 267 (2002); State v. Morgan, 352 S.C. 359, 574 S.E.2d 203 (Ct.App.2002). The trial court is concerned with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight. State v. Gaster, 349 S.C. 545, 564 S.E.2d 87 (2002); State v. Dudley, Op. No. 3579 (S.C. Ct.App. filed Dec. 9, 2002) (Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 41 at 57). When a motion for a directed verdict is made in a criminal case where the State relies exclusively on circumstantial evidence, the trial judge is required to submit the case to the jury if there is any substantial evidence which reasonably tends to prove the guilt of the accused, or from which his guilt may be fairly and logically deduced. State v. Lollis, 343 S.C. 580, 541 S.E.2d 254 (2001). On the other hand, a defendant is entitled to a directed verdict when the State fails to produce any direct or substantial circumstantial evidence of the offense charged. State v. Rothschild, 351 S.C. 238, 569 S.E.2d 346 (2002); State v. Walker, 349 S.C. 49, 562 S.E.2d 313 (2002).

In this case, the State presented substantial circumstantial evidence pointing to Al-Amin's guilt. Watkins observed Al-Amin dragging something out of his apartment that was "consistent with being a [human] body" wrapped in a pink blanket. Watkins found this same pink blanket containing the victim's body in the dumpster closest to Al-Amin's apartment later that day.

Our courts have held that concealment of the body of a murdered person is a circumstance which tends to show guilt and should go to the jury to weigh the evidence. See State v. Ridgely, 251 S.C. 556, 164 S.E.2d 439 (1968); State v. Epes, 209 S.C. 246, 39 S.E.2d 769 (1946). In State v. Ridgely, the Supreme Court, quoting State v. Epes, discussed this principle:

The facts in this case are similar in many respects to the facts in the case of State v. Epes, 209 S.C. 246, 39 S.E.2d 769 (1946). In that case the accused reported to the police the disappearance of his wife and pretended to aid in search of her. Later he admitted that he had concealed her body and led the police to an improvised grave. It was his
353 S.C. 412
contention that his wife took an overdose of medicine and died as a result of it. In that case, as here, the law of circumstantial evidence was largely relied upon by the State. Referring to concealment of the body of a murdered person, this court said:
The general rule is that the concealment or the attempted destruction of a body of a person murdered is regarded as an incriminating circumstance and will be given probative force in connection with other facts. See Annotation, 2 A.L.R. 1227, and the numerous cases there cited to sustain this proposition; and also, Wigmore on Evidence, 2d Ed., Secs. 32, 172, 267, 272 and 276.
The action of the appellant in concealing the body of his wife so as to divert suspicion from himself was a relevant circumstance tending to show guilt, and it was for the jury to estimate its weight, and it was for the jury to determine whether his explanation and the motive he assigned were truthful or otherwise. 39 S.E.2d at 777.

Id. at 565, 164 S.E.2d at 443 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also 40A Am.Jur.2d Homicide § 462 (1999) (concealment or attempted destruction of body of murder victim is regarded as incriminating circumstance and will be given probative force in connection with other facts; an inference of guilt may be drawn therefrom). Cf. State v. Beckham, 334 S.C. 302, 513 S.E.2d 606 (1999) (attempted destruction of evidence is regarded as a relevant incriminating circumstance).

The police discovered a construction bolt with the victim's blood on it in the closet in Al-Amin's apartment. Investigator Bales testified that "the gouge marks into the victim's head looked like they were the same size as the head of that bolt." Dr. Sally A. Harding, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on the victim, described four deep injuries to the victim's face and head. Harding stated a heavy object being swung with force generally causes the types of injuries sustained by the victim. Harding declared three of the four injuries were 2.8 centimeters long, which is the same size as the bolt found in Al-Amin's apartment. When asked whether the bolt was consistent with the length of the injuries to the victim's head, Dr. Harding responded: "Yes, that would be consistent with the length of the injury and the type of

353 S.C. 413
implement that could have inflicted this type of full-thickness laceration." Harding observed marks on the victim's neck which were consistent with manual strangulation. At the time Al-Amin reported to the police station, he had scratches on the left side of his face, on his cheek and lips, which were indicative of a struggle.

Upon searching Al-Amin's apartment, the police noticed the apartment had been cleaned and there was a smell of mothballs about the apartment. Further, the police detected human blood on the shower curtain and carpet...

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42 practice notes
  • State v. Rice, No. 4300.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 5, 2007
    ...S.C. 98, 104-05, 16 S.E.2d 532, 534-35 (1941); accord State v. Cooper, 334 S.C. 540, 549-50, 514 S.E.2d 584, 588 (1999); State v. Al-Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 427-29, 578 S.E.2d 32, 44-45 (Ct.App.2003). If the testimony is inadmissible as substantive evidence of third-party guilt, it may, neverth......
  • State v. Moore, No. 4247.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 18, 2007
    ...deduced. State v. Walker, 349 S.C. 49, 562 S.E.2d 313 (2002); State v. Buckmon, 347 S.C. 316, 555 S.E.2d 402 (2001); State v. Al-Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 411, 578 S.E.2d 32, 35 (Ct.App.2003); see also State v. Martin, 340 S.C. 597, 533 S.E.2d 572 (2000) (stating where the evidence is circumstant......
  • State v. Brannon, No. 4428.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • July 18, 2008
    ...Weston, 367 S.C. at 292, 625 S.E.2d at 648; State v. Zeigler, 364 S.C. 94, 101, 610 S.E.2d 859, 863 (Ct.App.2005); State v. Al-Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 411, 578 S.E.2d 32, 35 (Ct.App.2003). If there is any direct evidence or substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the gui......
  • Green v. State, No. S12A0853.
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 25, 2012
    ...element of dishonesty or [728 S.E.2d 674]false statement. United States v. Colbert, 116 F.3d 395, 396 (9th Cir.1997); State v. Al–Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 578 S.E.2d 32, 38(II)(A) (S.C.App.2003); Commonwealth v. McNeil, 545 Pa. 42, 679 A.2d 1253, 1259 (1996); State v. Zaritz, 235 Neb. 599, 456 N......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
42 cases
  • State v. Rice, No. 4300.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 5, 2007
    ...S.C. 98, 104-05, 16 S.E.2d 532, 534-35 (1941); accord State v. Cooper, 334 S.C. 540, 549-50, 514 S.E.2d 584, 588 (1999); State v. Al-Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 427-29, 578 S.E.2d 32, 44-45 (Ct.App.2003). If the testimony is inadmissible as substantive evidence of third-party guilt, it may, neverth......
  • State v. Moore, No. 4247.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 18, 2007
    ...deduced. State v. Walker, 349 S.C. 49, 562 S.E.2d 313 (2002); State v. Buckmon, 347 S.C. 316, 555 S.E.2d 402 (2001); State v. Al-Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 411, 578 S.E.2d 32, 35 (Ct.App.2003); see also State v. Martin, 340 S.C. 597, 533 S.E.2d 572 (2000) (stating where the evidence is circumstant......
  • State v. Brannon, No. 4428.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • July 18, 2008
    ...Weston, 367 S.C. at 292, 625 S.E.2d at 648; State v. Zeigler, 364 S.C. 94, 101, 610 S.E.2d 859, 863 (Ct.App.2005); State v. Al-Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 411, 578 S.E.2d 32, 35 (Ct.App.2003). If there is any direct evidence or substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the gui......
  • Green v. State, No. S12A0853.
    • United States
    • Georgia Supreme Court
    • June 25, 2012
    ...element of dishonesty or [728 S.E.2d 674]false statement. United States v. Colbert, 116 F.3d 395, 396 (9th Cir.1997); State v. Al–Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 578 S.E.2d 32, 38(II)(A) (S.C.App.2003); Commonwealth v. McNeil, 545 Pa. 42, 679 A.2d 1253, 1259 (1996); State v. Zaritz, 235 Neb. 599, 456 N......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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