State v. Ballenger, No. 24424

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtWALLER; FINNEY; FINNEY
Citation322 S.C. 196,470 S.E.2d 851
PartiesThe STATE, Petitioner, v. Willie Lee BALLENGER, Respondent. . Heard
Docket NumberNo. 24424
Decision Date03 October 1995

Page 851

470 S.E.2d 851
322 S.C. 196
The STATE, Petitioner,
v.
Willie Lee BALLENGER, Respondent.
No. 24424.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Heard October 3, 1995.
Decided May 13, 1996.
Rehearing Denied June 20, 1996.

Page 852

[322 S.C. 197] Charles Molony Condon, Attorney General, John W. McIntosh, Deputy Attorney General, Salley W. Elliott, Assistant Deputy Attorney General, Rakale Buchanan Smith, Assistant Attorney General, Caroline C. Callison, Assistant Attorney General, Columbia, for petitioner.

Robert M. Pachak, Assistant Appellate Defender, of South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, Columbia, for respondent.

WALLER, Justice:

Respondent Willie Lee Ballenger was convicted of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine. The Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, finding the trial judge should have directed a verdict of acquittal. State v. Ballenger, 317 S.C. 364, 454 S.E.2d 355 (Ct.App.1995). We reverse.

FACTS

On July 27, 1992, Lieutenant Blackburn of the Greenville City Police Department received complaints that two black males were selling crack on the corner of Grace and McCall streets, a known drug distribution area. One was described as wearing a white tee shirt and black pants. 1 Blackburn radioed the vice and narcotics unit to investigate. Two units responded: Detectives Bowser and Hawkins, and Detectives Kelly and Brown.

As Detectives Bowser and Hawkins approached the intersection of Grace and

Page 853

McCall they saw two black males, one of them (Ballenger) fitting the description given. Bowser, who was not driving, stated Ballenger appeared to be involved in a drug transaction when he saw the officers (driving an unmarked police car). Ballenger appeared to put something into his pocket; he then ran between two houses. Bowser, pursuing Ballenger on foot, saw him cross two fences but did not catch up with him until Detective Kelly had him in custody. Detective Hawkins never saw Ballenger until he had been caught.

[322 S.C. 198] Detective Kelly (who was attempting to intercept Ballenger) saw him hurdle a fence and fall face down on the ground, about three feet away from the fence. He caught Ballenger when he became entangled in a barbwire fence. Ballenger began screaming hysterically, "I've been robbed."

Detective Brown found twenty-nine hits of crack (weighing 3.26 grams), wrapped in newspaper. It was about five feet from the fence Ballenger scaled, laying on top of the ground, in the spot where Detective Kelly said Ballenger had fallen. 2 When Brown showed the crack to Ballenger and stated he was under arrest, he tried to get away.

At the close of the state's case, Ballenger moved for a directed verdict, which he renewed once all evidence had been presented. After conviction he moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or in the alternative a new trial. The trial judge denied all motions.

ISSUE

Was there sufficient evidence Ballenger had possession of crack cocaine to justify the trial judge's denial of Ballenger's motion for a directed verdict?

DISCUSSION

In considering whether the trial judge erred in denying a motion for a directed verdict, this court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the [322 S.C. 199] State. State v. Brown, 267 S.C. 311, 227 S.E.2d 674 (1976). In State v. Littlejohn, 228 S.C. 324, 329, 89 S.E.2d 924, 926 (1955), the court set forth the standard by which a trial judge should measure circumstantial evidence on a directed verdict motion.

... [T]he trial judge is concerned with the existence or non-existence of evidence, not with its weight; and, although he should not refuse to grant the motion where the evidence merely raises a suspicion that the accused is guilty, it is his duty to submit the case to the jury if there be any substantial evidence which reasonably tends to prove the guilt of the accused, or from which his guilt may be fairly and logically deduced.

The motion should be granted where a jury would be speculating as to the accused's guilt, Brown, 267 S.C. at 316, 227 S.E.2d at 677, or where the evidence is sufficient only to raise a strong suspicion of guilt. State v. Totherow, 263 S.C. 275, 210 S.E.2d 228 (1974). However, a trial judge is not required to find that the evidence infers guilt to the exclusion of any other reasonable hypothesis. State v. Edwards, 298 S.C. 272, 379 S.E.2d 888, cert. denied, 493 U.S. 895, 110 S.Ct. 246, 107 L.Ed.2d 196 (1989).

Page 854

Possession is an essential element of the crime of possession with intent to distribute narcotics. S.C.Code Ann. § 44-53-375(B)...

To continue reading

Request your trial
62 practice notes
  • Smalls v. State, Appellate Case No. 2016-001079
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 7, 2018
    ...S.C. at 408, 272 S.E.2d at 171 (quoting State v. Jefferson , 11 Wash.App. 566, 524 P.2d 248, 251 (1974) );6 see also State v. Ballenger , 322 S.C. 196, 200, 470 S.E.2d 851, 854 (1996)810 S.E.2d 846(on review of the denial of a directed verdict motion, 422 S.C. 193reversing the court of appe......
  • State v. Cherry, No. 25902.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 29, 2004
    ...judge is not required to find that the evidence infers guilt to the exclusion of any other reasonable hypothesis. State v. Ballenger, 322 S.C. 196, 470 S.E.2d 851 (1996); State v. Edwards, In Edwards, supra, we rejected the contention that in ruling on a directed verdict motion, the trial j......
  • State v. Moore, No. 4247.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 18, 2007
    ...evidence infers guilt to the exclusion of any other reasonable hypotheses. Cherry, 361 S.C. at 594, 606 S.E.2d at 478; State v. Ballenger, 322 S.C. 196, 470 S.E.2d 851 On appeal from the denial of a directed verdict in a criminal case, an appellate court must view the evidence and all reaso......
  • Al-Shabazz v. State, No. 24995.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 23, 1999
    ...of the Constitution," or whether prison officials have acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or from personal bias. Brown, 322 S.C. at 194, 470 S.E.2d at 851; Crowe, 273 S.C. at 764, 259 S.E.2d at 338 S.C. 382 We emphasize, however, that we continue to endorse the limited nature of judicial revi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
62 cases
  • Smalls v. State, Appellate Case No. 2016-001079
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 7, 2018
    ...S.C. at 408, 272 S.E.2d at 171 (quoting State v. Jefferson , 11 Wash.App. 566, 524 P.2d 248, 251 (1974) );6 see also State v. Ballenger , 322 S.C. 196, 200, 470 S.E.2d 851, 854 (1996)810 S.E.2d 846(on review of the denial of a directed verdict motion, 422 S.C. 193reversing the court of appe......
  • State v. Cherry, No. 25902.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 29, 2004
    ...judge is not required to find that the evidence infers guilt to the exclusion of any other reasonable hypothesis. State v. Ballenger, 322 S.C. 196, 470 S.E.2d 851 (1996); State v. Edwards, In Edwards, supra, we rejected the contention that in ruling on a directed verdict motion, the trial j......
  • State v. Moore, No. 4247.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 18, 2007
    ...evidence infers guilt to the exclusion of any other reasonable hypotheses. Cherry, 361 S.C. at 594, 606 S.E.2d at 478; State v. Ballenger, 322 S.C. 196, 470 S.E.2d 851 On appeal from the denial of a directed verdict in a criminal case, an appellate court must view the evidence and all reaso......
  • Al-Shabazz v. State, No. 24995.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • August 23, 1999
    ...of the Constitution," or whether prison officials have acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or from personal bias. Brown, 322 S.C. at 194, 470 S.E.2d at 851; Crowe, 273 S.C. at 764, 259 S.E.2d at 338 S.C. 382 We emphasize, however, that we continue to endorse the limited nature of judicial revi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT