State v. Crawford

Citation362 S.C. 627,608 S.E.2d 886
Decision Date31 January 2005
Docket NumberNo. 3933.,3933.
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Bernard CRAWFORD, Appellant.
CourtSouth Carolina Court of Appeals

Assistant Appellate Defender Aileen P. Clare, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, Senior Assistant Attorney General Harold M. Coombs, Jr., all of Columbia; and Solicitor Thomas E. Pope, of York, for Respondent.


Bernard Crawford (Appellant) was convicted of criminal conspiracy and sentenced to five years in prison. He appeals, arguing the trial judge erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict. We affirm.


On the night of August 20, 2002, John Crawford (John) awoke his son, Jonathan Crawford (Jonathan), and demanded Jonathan take him to get something to eat. John is Appellant's brother, and Jonathan is John's son, Appellant's nephew. Jonathan testified at Appellant's trial that his father was drunk and irate. Jonathan acquiesced, and on their way to a fast-food restaurant, John and Jonathan picked up Appellant, who had been walking along the side of the road. According to Jonathan's testimony, the three of them proceeded to a fast-food restaurant. John then directed Jonathan to drive to an apartment complex, but suddenly demanded that Jonathan stop the vehicle so he could urinate behind a building. Jonathan stopped the car at Sunbelt Rentals. Shortly after John exited the vehicle, Jonathan heard glass break from the direction of Sunbelt Rentals.

In his statement to police, Jonathan averred Appellant exited the vehicle upon hearing the glass break. He saw John and Appellant carrying stolen saws from the store to the car. According to his sworn statement, John and Appellant loaded the saws into the car and demanded Jonathan drive away.

Officer Jenkins witnessed the vehicle, with its headlights off, pulling out of the parking lot of Sunbelt Rentals. The officer, who had been traveling in the opposite direction of the Crawfords, turned around to follow Jonathan's vehicle. Jonathan sped up, and the officer activated his blue lights. Officer Jenkins testified that it appeared as though objects were being thrown out of the sunroof. In his statement, Jonathan claimed that upon seeing the police car, Appellant handed John the saws from the backseat, and John threw the saws out of the vehicle's passenger side window. Appellant ran from police once the vehicle was stopped. Bolt cutters, gloves, and newly purchased flashlights were found in the vehicle.

The police charged Jonathan, John, and Appellant with conspiracy, burglary, and grand larceny. All charges against Jonathan subsequently were dropped. John pled guilty to all the charges and was sentenced to a total of fifteen years in prison. At Appellant's trial, John claimed full responsibility for the crimes: "[n]either one of them ... had really anything to do with it.... [I]f he would have helped me or somebody would have helped me, I wouldn't have gotten caught." According to John, neither Jonathan nor Appellant knew his intention to break into Sunbelt Rentals.

Jonathan's trial testimony differs substantially from the statement he gave to police. In court, Jonathan proclaimed: "... I don't know if Bernard Crawford got out of the car between the time that he ran in the building and came back." He stated further: "I had tunnel vision. I didn't look around and look back. I didn't see anything `til my father put the saws in the back seat and jumped in the front seat and said, `Let's go.'" Jonathan testified that John slapped him and may have slapped at Appellant as well. John yelled at them both demanding they obey his orders. Jonathan remembered Appellant telling John: "you basically just got us in trouble, you know, for your stupidity."

When the State rested its case, Appellant moved for a directed verdict as to all charges. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that substantial evidence was extant in the record from which the jury could infer that the State had proven the elements of each of the offenses, focusing particularly on Jonathan's previous statement to police about Appellant's involvement. The jury found Appellant guilty of criminal conspiracy and acquitted him of the remaining charges. The trial court sentenced Appellant to five years in prison.


On appeal from the denial of a directed verdict in a criminal case, an appellate court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State. State v. Curtis, 356 S.C. 622, 591 S.E.2d 600 (2004); State v. Al-Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 578 S.E.2d 32 (Ct.App.2003); State v. Morgan, 352 S.C. 359, 574 S.E.2d 203 (Ct.App.2002). When ruling on a motion for a directed verdict, the trial court is concerned with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight. State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 588, 606 S.E.2d 475 (2004); State v. Wilds, 355 S.C. 269, 584 S.E.2d 138 (Ct.App.2003); State v. McLauren, 349 S.C. 488, 563 S.E.2d 346 (Ct.App.2002). If there is any direct evidence or substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the guilt of the accused, this Court must find the case was properly submitted to the jury. State v. Rosemond, 356 S.C. 426, 589 S.E.2d 757 (2003); State v. Lindsey, 355 S.C. 15, 583 S.E.2d 740 (2003); see also State v. Ballington, 346 S.C. 262, 551 S.E.2d 280 (Ct.App.2001)

(stating judge should deny motion for directed verdict if there is any direct or substantial circumstantial evidence which reasonably tends to prove accused's guilt, or from which his guilt may be fairly and logically deduced). On the other hand, a defendant is entitled to a directed verdict when the State fails to produce evidence of the offense charged. State v. McKnight, 352 S.C. 635, 576 S.E.2d 168 (2003); State v. McCluney, 357 S.C. 560, 593 S.E.2d 509 (Ct.App.2004); State v. Padgett, 354 S.C. 268, 580 S.E.2d 159 (Ct.App.2003). The appellate court may reverse the trial judge's denial of a motion for a directed verdict only if there is no evidence to support the judge's ruling. State v. Gaster, 349 S.C. 545, 555, 564 S.E.2d 87, 92 (2002).


Appellant claims the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict because the State failed to introduce substantial evidence he was guilty of conspiracy. We disagree.

I. Prior Inconsistent Statement as Substantive Evidence

State v. Copeland, 278 S.C. 572, 300 S.E.2d 63 (1982), established that testimony of prior inconsistent statements may be used as "substantive evidence when the declarant testifies at trial and is subject to cross examination." Id. at 581, 300 S.E.2d at 69; accord State v. Smith, 309 S.C. 442, 424 S.E.2d 496 (1992)

; State v. Ferguson, 300 S.C. 408, 388 S.E.2d 642 (1990); State v. Caulder, 287 S.C. 507, 339 S.E.2d 876 (Ct.App.1986). In this case, Jonathan gave a statement to police following his arrest asserting that Appellant participated in the grand larceny and burglary. However, at trial Jonathan testified that he was unsure whether Appellant exited the vehicle, and that Appellant objected to John's actions once John was back in the car. The contradiction between Jonathan's sworn statement to police and his later testimony in court is a matter of weight for the jury to decide. Copeland at 582, 300 S.E.2d at 69. The later testimony does not obviate the efficacy of the first statement made closer in time to the event in question. Id.

II. Flight Evidence

Once Jonathan stopped the car, Officer Jenkins instructed John, Jonathan, and Appellant to remain in the vehicle until backup arrived. With another officer present, Officer Jenkins had each individual step out of the car, one at a time. He provided the following description of the arrests:

A. The last person I pulled out was Bernard, which was the subject seated in the passenger side rear. I had him exit and also patted him down for weapons.
Q. All right. And at that point what happened?
A. As soon as I began patting Bernard down for weapons, he jerked away from me and took off running down Ebenezer.

After a short chase, Officer Jenkins returned to John and Jonathan to place them under arrest. Additional law enforcement personnel soon arrived and Officer Jenkins resumed the search for Appellant. He explained:

A.... [W]e got a call of a subject around some apartments on Ebenezer Avenue ...
At that time, I did proceed to that area and I did locate Bernard Crawford hiding in the bushes in the front. It was myself and an officer from Winthrop.
Q. All right. And at that time were you able to apprehend him?
A. No, I was not. I ordered him out from the bushes. At that time I was at the rear of the bushes. He exited out through the front of the bushes, ran and jumped over another fence and continued on.

Eventually, Appellant was apprehended.

"Flight from prosecution is admissible as evidence of guilt." State v. Al-Amin, 353 S.C. 405, 413, 578 S.E.2d 32, 36-37 (Ct.App.2003); see also State v. Ballenger, 322 S.C. 196, 200, 470 S.E.2d 851, 854 (1996)

(stating flight is "at least some evidence" of defendant's guilt); State v. Freely, 105 S.C. 243, 89 S.E. 643 (1916) (declaring the flight of one charged with crime has always been held to be some evidence tending to prove guilt). Evidence of flight has been held to constitute evidence of defendant's guilty knowledge and intent. See State v. Beckham, 334 S.C. 302, 513 S.E.2d 606 (1999); Town of Hartsville v. Munger, 93 S.C. 527, 77 S.E. 219 (1913); State v. Brownlee, 318 S.C. 34, 455 S.E.2d 704 (Ct.App.1995); see also State v. Thompson, 278 S.C. 1, 292 S.E.2d 581 (1982),

overruled on other grounds by State v. Torrence, 305 S.C. 45, 406 S.E.2d 315 (1991) (finding evidence of flight admissible to show guilty knowledge, intent, and that defendant sought to avoid apprehension); State v. Grant, 275 S.C. 404, 407, 272 S.E.2d 169,...

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