State v. Evans, No. 3187.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtCURETON.
Citation341 S.C. 219,534 S.E.2d 10
Decision Date12 June 2000
Docket NumberNo. 3187.
PartiesThe STATE, Appellant, v. Florence Robinson EVANS, Respondent.

341 S.C. 219
534 S.E.2d 10

The STATE, Appellant,
v.
Florence Robinson EVANS, Respondent

No. 3187.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard December 9, 1999.

Decided June 12, 2000.

Rehearing Denied September 2, 2000.


341 S.C. 220
Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney Generals Donald J. Zelenka and David K. Avant, and Assistant
341 S.C. 221
Attorney General S. Creighton Waters, all of Columbia, for appellant

Senior Assistant Appellate Defender Wanda H. Haile, of SC Office of Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for respondent.

CURETON, Judge:

A Chesterfield County grand jury indicted Florence Robinson Evans for the murder of her three children.1 At a pretrial hearing, the trial court suppressed Evans's oral and written confessions. The State appeals. We affirm.

FACTS

On the morning of March 4, 1994, a fire destroyed the Pageland trailer-home of Evans and killed her three small children. Evans survived as she was visiting her sister's nearby home at the time of the fire. Later that day, arson investigator Terry Alexander of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) obtained Evans's permission to search the burned-out trailer, but she refused to give Alexander a written statement. An initial test of the site revealed the presence of a flammable substance in the debris. Samples were collected for later analysis at SLED's laboratory to determine the type of accelerant present at the commencement of the fire.

Agent Alexander did not return to Pageland until after the children's funerals. Around lunchtime on March 14, 1994, he attempted to contact Evans at the home of her cousin where she had been staying since the fire, but Evans was not there. He left word with an occupant of the house to ask Evans to "come to the Pageland Police Department for the purposes [sic] of talking to me about the fire." Between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m., Evans's cousin, Inez Robinson, drove Evans to Pageland's police station.2 Alexander and his supervisor, SLED

341 S.C. 222
Lieutenant Doug Ross, escorted Evans back to a detective's office in the station which they had borrowed to conduct the interview. Robinson and several other family members who had accompanied Evans to the station were left in the station's waiting room. Robinson asked if she could accompany Evans because "she's quiet," and Robinson wanted to be with her, but the officers refused

Once inside the small detective's office, Evans agreed to talk with Agent Alexander and Lt. Ross. She told them that on the morning of the fire, she arose just before 9:00 a.m., lit a kerosene heater, then left her children asleep in the trailer while she went next door to visit her sister. Minutes after her arrival, Evans's sister said she smelled smoke, so Evans looked out the window and saw her trailer in flames. Evans testified that she rushed back to the trailer and attempted to gain entry, but was barred by the flames. When asked what caused the fire, Evans opined that it could have been caused by either dogs under the trailer, her sister's son playing with matches, or a faulty electrical outlet. During the interview, Alexander took notes on a "Voluntary Statement" form, but he neither asked Evans to read the form nor advised her of the Miranda3 rights contained thereon.

Agent Alexander testified that although Evans was "very cooperative" during the interview, she was also upset and sobbing. At times, Evans would speak so softly that Alexander could barely understand her. She would also clutch the agent's hands and ask him for help. Although Alexander repeatedly asked her what type of help she required, Evans never responded with a specific request. Alexander testified that he felt the interview was very unproductive and tried to end it on several occasions, but claimed that Evans would respond with tears and repeat her request for help.

Lieutenant Ross confirmed Alexander's account of the interview. He testified that "the interview seemed to be—you know—basically no help at all" and "was a very long drawn

341 S.C. 223
out event" which lasted two or three hours. Ross also claims to have been unsuccessful in ending the interview

After more than an hour of questioning, the two agents stepped into the hall outside the interview room to confer about Evans's statement. Ross testified that he suggested to agent Jennifer Edwards of SLED's child fatality unit to "go in and talk to [Evans], see if [Edwards] could—you know—get anything different than we already had." Edwards testified she spent "approximately 45 minutes to an hour" alone with Evans trying to comfort her. Edwards maintains she was just "having a conversation" with Evans the whole time and "was not on a fact-finding mission." On at least one occasion, Edwards escorted Evans to the bathroom and "stood outside the door" because, according to her, she thought Evans may try to harm herself. When they returned to the interview room, Evans continued to plead for help. Edwards responded: "Florence, I don't know what kind of help you need until you tell me." Evans then whispered, "I dropped a lit piece of paper on the floor.... I walked next door and waited until somebody saw the fire." Edwards immediately summoned Ross and asked Evans to repeat what she had said. Evans complied. Ross called in Alexander and Evans again repeated the statement. As a result, Alexander added another paragraph to his notes on the Voluntary Statement form:

I dropped a lit piece of paper on the floor. I rolled it up and lit it. It was writing paper. I dropped the paper on a rug. The rug caught on fire and I went out the front door. I went next door to my sisters [sic] house and just waited. I waited about two hours until someone saw the fire. I got some kerosene in a cup and poured it on the rug. The fire got bigger and as I left it was burning a lot [sic]. I was hurting inside about seeing people do people wrong. Please get me some help. Please get me some help. I lit the fire with a match. I don't remember who found the fire. I got the kerosene out of the blue jug and put it back on the porch.

The interview ended at 6:01 p.m. Alexander read his notes back to Evans and she subsequently signed and initialed the "Voluntary Statement." As a result, the officers immediately placed her under arrest.

341 S.C. 224
Evans testified that during the interview, she repeatedly asked to speak with her cousin, Inez Robinson. She also admitted to asking the agents for help. Evans does not deny signing the voluntary statement, but claims she thought she "was signing some [sic] papers to get me some [sic] help."

Robinson also attempted to speak with Evans during the interview, but was restricted to the station's waiting room until after Evans's arrest. Robinson testified that "[w]hen [Evans] saw me, she just run [sic] to me and held me. She said she told them she wanted to get to me.... She kept crying out to see me. They would not let her see me." According to Robinson, Evans was "real shaky" and "upset, like if someone had scolded her." She said Evans told her "[t]here was some kind of paper they wanted her to sign," and Evans then declared, "Inez, I did not kill my babies." Robinson stated she had "never seen [Florence] look like that" and reported that Evans told her the officers "pushed her to sign some papers."

A Chesterfield County grand jury indicted Evans on three counts of murder on April 13, 1994. On May 1-4, 1998 the trial court held a Jackson v. Denno4 hearing to discuss the admissibility of Evans's oral and written statements of March 14, 1994. The trial court suppressed her oral and written statements to the...

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5 practice notes
  • State v. Williams, No. 3550.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 9, 2002
    ...whether any evidence supports the trial court's finding and the appellate court may only reverse where there is clear error." Green, 341 S.C. at 219 n. 3, 532 S.E.2d at 898 n. 3. Accordingly, we will apply an "any evidence" standard to the ruling Discussion The State argues the trial court ......
  • State v. Willard, No. 4250.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 31, 2007
    ...After review of all the circumstances, we find no error by the trial court in denying Willard's motion to suppress the drugs. See Green, 341 S.C. at 219 n. 3, 532 S.E.2d at 898 n. 3 (holding "the appellate standard of review in Fourth Amendment search and seizure cases is limited to determi......
  • State v. Evans, No. 25661.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 9, 2003
    ...Appeals upheld the trial judge's determination, finding that Evans was not free to leave the custody of the SLED agents. State v. Evans, 341 S.C. 219, 534 S.E.2d 10 (Ct.App.2000). On rehearing, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the action so that the trial judge could make a more d......
  • State v. Green, No. 3186.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 12, 2000
    ...J., concurring) We note "the requirement that an anonymous tip bear standard indicia of reliability in order to justify a stop in no 341 S.C. 219 way diminishes a police officer's prerogative, in accord with Terry, to conduct a protective search of a person who has already been legitimately......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 cases
  • State v. Williams, No. 3550.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 9, 2002
    ...whether any evidence supports the trial court's finding and the appellate court may only reverse where there is clear error." Green, 341 S.C. at 219 n. 3, 532 S.E.2d at 898 n. 3. Accordingly, we will apply an "any evidence" standard to the ruling Discussion The State argues the trial court ......
  • State v. Willard, No. 4250.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • May 31, 2007
    ...After review of all the circumstances, we find no error by the trial court in denying Willard's motion to suppress the drugs. See Green, 341 S.C. at 219 n. 3, 532 S.E.2d at 898 n. 3 (holding "the appellate standard of review in Fourth Amendment search and seizure cases is limited to determi......
  • State v. Evans, No. 25661.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • June 9, 2003
    ...Appeals upheld the trial judge's determination, finding that Evans was not free to leave the custody of the SLED agents. State v. Evans, 341 S.C. 219, 534 S.E.2d 10 (Ct.App.2000). On rehearing, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the action so that the trial judge could make a more d......
  • State v. Green, No. 3186.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 12, 2000
    ...J., concurring) We note "the requirement that an anonymous tip bear standard indicia of reliability in order to justify a stop in no 341 S.C. 219 way diminishes a police officer's prerogative, in accord with Terry, to conduct a protective search of a person who has already been legitimately......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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