State v. Butler, No. 21690

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtHARWELL; LEWIS
Citation277 S.C. 543,290 S.E.2d 420
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. James Anthony BUTLER, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 21690
Decision Date12 April 1982

Page 420

290 S.E.2d 420
277 S.C. 543
The STATE, Respondent,
v.
James Anthony BUTLER, Appellant.
No. 21690.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
April 12, 1982.

[277 S.C. 544] David I. Bruck, of S. C. Commission of Appellate Defense, Columbia, and O. Harry Bozardt, Jr., and John A. Nettles, Orangeburg, for appellant.

Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod and Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen. Brian P. Gibbes, Columbia, for respondent.

HARWELL, Justice:

On March 11, 1981, appellant was convicted by an Orangeburg County jury of murdering Thakor Patel, of committing an assault and battery upon Ramila Patel with intent to kill her, and of unlawfully carrying a pistol. After finding that appellant committed the murder during the commission of a robbery while he was armed with a deadly weapon, the jury recommended the death penalty. The trial court adopted the recommendation and sentenced the appellant to death. This case consolidates the appellant's direct appeal and mandatory review of the death sentence.

On October 20, 1980, during the armed robbery of their motel in Santee, South

Page 421

Carolina, Mr. Patel was killed and Mrs. Patel was wounded. Appellant was arrested for the crimes the following day.

Appellant alleges several errors occurred during the course of his trial requiring the reversal of his conviction and sentence[277 S.C. 545] of death. We agree and reverse the convictions, vacate the death penalty and remand for a new trial.

Appellant argues that during the penalty phase of the proceeding, the solicitor injected his own personal opinion into the jury's deliberations, and therefore the resulting death sentence was not free from the influence of any arbitrary factor as required by S.C.Code Ann. § 16-3-25(C)(1) and the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

We have determined that a solicitor's closing remarks should be governed by the following principles:

While the solicitor should prosecute vigorously, State v. Davis, 239 S.C. 280, 122 S.E.2d 633, his duty is not to convict a defendant but to see justice done. State v. Allen, 266 S.C. 468, 224 S.E.2d 881 (1976). The solicitor's closing argument must, of course, be based upon this principle. The argument therefore must be carefully tailored so as not to appeal to the personal bias of the juror nor be calculated to arouse his passion or prejudice. State v. White, 246 S.C. 502, 144 S.E.2d 481 (1965). The trial judge is vested with a broad discretion in dealing with the propriety of the argument of the solicitor to the jury. State v. Durden, supra. Once the trial judge has allowed the argument to stand, as here, the defendant must bear the burden of demonstrating that the argument in effect denied him a fair determination of his guilt or innocence. On appeal, this Court will review the alleged impropriety of argument in the context of the entire record. State v. Woomer, S.C., 284 S.E.2d 357 (1981); State v. Linder, S.C., 278 S.E.2d 335 (1981).

Here, as in Woomer, the solicitor attempted to minimize the jury's sense of responsibility for appellant's fate by stressing that he himself had already made the same decision he was asking them to make.

First, it has to pass over my desk. I make the decision. People elect me to make the decision as to whether or not I think cases ought to be prosecuted. We don't prosecute all the cases. And I think that's one of the [277 S.C. 546] hardest impressions sometimes that we have to make, because people think that I am the mouthpiece of the county or the mouthpiece of the police and that everything that comes along Norman Fogle has got to...

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18 practice notes
  • United States v. Aquart, No. 12-5086-cr
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • December 20, 2018
    ...evidence—are distinguishable from the jury confusion/erroneous instruction error raised in Jones . In support, he cites State v. Butler , 277 S.C. 543, 546, 290 S.E.2d 420, 421 (1982) (characterizing prosecutorial vouching as "arbitrary factor" under parallel provision of state death penalt......
  • State v. Copeland, No. 21808
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 10, 1982
    ...proportionality review. State v. Truesdale, supra; State v. Patterson, S.C., 295 S.E.2d 264 (1982); State v. James Anthony Butler, S.C., 290 S.E.2d 420 (1982); State v. Woomer, S.C., 284 S.E.2d 357 (1981); State v. Plath, supra; State v. Adams, supra; State v. Linder, supra; State v. Woomer......
  • Wood v. Stirling, C/A No. 0:12-cv-3532-DCN-PJG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • October 1, 2018
    ...decision, so I have had to go through the same identical thing that you all do. It is not easy.Id. at 359. Similarly, in State v. Butler, 290 S.E.2d 420 (S.C. 1982),20 the South Carolina Supreme Court found an Eighth Amendment violation where the solicitor told the jury in his penalty phase......
  • State v. Torrence, No. 23403
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 1, 1989
    ...not entitled to a charge prohibiting the jury from considering parole eligibility in making its sentencing determination. State v. Butler, 277 S.C. 543, 290 S.E.2d 420 (1982); State v. Copeland, 278 S.C. 572, 300 S.E.2d 63 (1982); State v. South, 285 S.C. 529, 331 S.E.2d 775 (1985). In Cope......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • United States v. Aquart, No. 12-5086-cr
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Second Circuit
    • December 20, 2018
    ...evidence—are distinguishable from the jury confusion/erroneous instruction error raised in Jones . In support, he cites State v. Butler , 277 S.C. 543, 546, 290 S.E.2d 420, 421 (1982) (characterizing prosecutorial vouching as "arbitrary factor" under parallel provision of state death penalt......
  • State v. Copeland, No. 21808
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 10, 1982
    ...proportionality review. State v. Truesdale, supra; State v. Patterson, S.C., 295 S.E.2d 264 (1982); State v. James Anthony Butler, S.C., 290 S.E.2d 420 (1982); State v. Woomer, S.C., 284 S.E.2d 357 (1981); State v. Plath, supra; State v. Adams, supra; State v. Linder, supra; State v. Woomer......
  • Wood v. Stirling, C/A No. 0:12-cv-3532-DCN-PJG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • October 1, 2018
    ...decision, so I have had to go through the same identical thing that you all do. It is not easy.Id. at 359. Similarly, in State v. Butler, 290 S.E.2d 420 (S.C. 1982),20 the South Carolina Supreme Court found an Eighth Amendment violation where the solicitor told the jury in his penalty phase......
  • State v. Torrence, No. 23403
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 1, 1989
    ...not entitled to a charge prohibiting the jury from considering parole eligibility in making its sentencing determination. State v. Butler, 277 S.C. 543, 290 S.E.2d 420 (1982); State v. Copeland, 278 S.C. 572, 300 S.E.2d 63 (1982); State v. South, 285 S.C. 529, 331 S.E.2d 775 (1985). In Cope......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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