State v. Goolsby, No. 21255

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtGREGORY; LEWIS
Docket NumberNo. 21255
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Sidney Ross GOOLSBY, Appellant.
Decision Date24 June 1980

Page 31

268 S.E.2d 31
275 S.C. 110
The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Sidney Ross GOOLSBY, Appellant.
No. 21255.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
June 24, 1980.

Page 34

[275 S.C. 113] Geddes D. Anderson and Judson F. Ayers, Jr., Greenwood, for appellant.

[275 S.C. 114] Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod and Asst. Atty. Gen. Brian P. Gibbes, Columbia, and Sol. William T. Jones, Greenwood, for respondent.

GREGORY, Justice:

Appellant Sidney Ross Goolsby was found guilty of the murder of Ruby Ann Medlin in the first phase of a bifurcated capital trial and sentenced to death upon recommendation of the trial jury at the end of the second phase. The case on appeal consolidates a direct appeal of the conviction and mandatory review of the death sentence. We affirm the conviction, vacate the death penalty and remand to the trial court.

THE FACTS

On March 13, 1978, a motorist discovered the body later identified as Ruby Ann Medlin lying face down in the brush alongside U.S. Highway 93 in a desolate, desert-mountainous area of Yavapai County, Arizona. Mrs. Medlin had been missing from Columbia, South Carolina since March 8.

The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia by compression, rather than manual, strangulation. The examining pathologist's opinion was that some firm flat object or instrument was pressed against the throat of the victim, obstructing the air passage and causing death by asphyxiation. The physical findings in support of this conclusion were a flat, band-like bruise across the front of the victim's throat and fracture of the voice box cartilage rather than the hyoid bone, whose fracture is more commonly associated with manual strangulation. The voice box is rarely fractured in cases of manual strangulation.

Goolsby was arrested on March 14, 1978 at the home of his brother in Las Vegas, Nevada and charged with a South Carolina parole violation. 1 Nevada and South Carolina authorities[275 S.C. 115] were not then aware that Mrs. Medlin's body had been found in Arizona. Although Goolsby was questioned as to the whereabouts of Mrs. Medlin by Las Vegas police who also conducted a consent search of his automobile, no formal charges were brought relative to her disappearance.

After waiving extradition on the parole violation charge, Goolsby was transported by automobile from Las Vegas to South Carolina by Richland County Sheriff Frank Powell. Upon arrival he was immediately incarcerated.

The body found in Arizona was positively identified as the remains of Ruby Ann Medlin in mid-April of 1978. Shortly thereafter, Goolsby gave an oral confession of the murder, reciting in detail the circumstances of the crime and the subsequent cross-country transportation of Mrs. Medlin's body. Following the oral confession, Goolsby led Sheriff Powell and Sheriff Giles Daniel of Greenwood County to the scene of the crime. Later that same day, Monday, April 24, 1978, his confession was recorded and transcribed in Greenwood County, the situs of the murder.

Goolsby's story was that he strangled Mrs. Medlin on March 8, 1978 while parked at an abandoned and dilapidated building near Star Fort Golf Course in Greenwood County. The two had driven from Columbia to Greenwood that morning to visit his parents.

With the body resting only partially covered on the front floorboard of his car, Goolsby drove from Greenwood County to the spot on U.S. Highway 93 where he dumped Mrs. Medlin's body in the brush adjoining the road, with intermittent stops along the way for food, fuel and rest. After

Page 35

discarding the remains of his victim at approximately 11:00 p. m. on Saturday, March 11, Goolsby then drove to his destination of Las Vegas, Nevada. He was arrested three days later.

[275 S.C. 116] THE EXCEPTIONS

(1) Initially appellant attacks the constitutionality of the South Carolina Death Penalty Statutory Complex, § 16-3-20 through § 16-3-28, Code of Laws of South Carolina (Cum.Supp.1979). This contention was laid to rest in the recent case of State v. Shaw, 273 S.C. 194, 255 S.E.2d 799 (1979), cert. denied 444 U.S. 957, 100 S.Ct. 437, 62 L.Ed.2d 329, wherein we found the statutory scheme to be constitutionally indistinguishable from that approved by our United States Supreme Court in Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 96 S.Ct. 2909, 49 L.Ed.2d 859 (1976).

(2) Appellant next asserts there was error in the lower court's inquiry of prospective jurors during voir dire as to their views on capital punishment. He argues the effect was to deny him a jury representative of the community through the exclusion for cause of those opposed to the death penalty.

A general objection to the death penalty is no reason for a trial judge to exclude veniremen for cause. Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d 776 (1968). However, when such a belief prevents the potential juror from rendering an impartial decision as to the guilt or innocence of the accused or to vote for the death penalty under any circumstances, such irrevocable commitment mandates excluding the venireman. Id.; Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978); State v. Tyner, S.C., 258 S.E.2d 559 (1979).

The lower court's inquiry during voir dire, while resulting in a number of exclusions, was an attempt by the trial judge to fulfill the holdings of Witherspoon, Lockett and Tyner and at the same time to carry out the directive of the statutory complex itself. § 16-3-20(E) provides:

In every criminal action in which a defendant is charged with a crime which may be punishable by death, a person [275 S.C. 117] may not be disqualified, excused or excluded from service as a juror therein by reason of his beliefs or attitudes against capital punishment unless such beliefs or attitudes would render him unable to return a verdict of guilty according to law.

None of the prospective jurors excused were excluded merely because of their beliefs, but rather on the basis of their consequent inability to faithfully carry out their duties as jurors under the law.

(3) Error is next assigned to the lower court's allowing the State to participate in the voir dire. The statutory scheme specifically empowers the defendant's attorney with the right to examine prospective jurors. § 16-3-20(D). This exception has no merit. We brushed the issue in Tyner and reached and disposed of it in State v. Smart, S.C., 262 S.E.2d 911 (1980), wherein we held the State's right to conduct voir dire examination discretionary with the trial judge. We find no abuse here.

(4) Appellant next takes exception to the trial judge's refusal to increase his peremptory challenges in light of this being a capital case. The legislative limitation 2 of peremptory challenges for a defendant arraigned for the crime of murder has been upheld by this Court even in capital cases. State v. Wyse, 32 S.C. 45, 10 S.E. 612 (1890); State v. Holland, 261 S.C. 488, 201 S.E.2d 118 (1973). The legislature did not see fit to include in the present death penalty statutory complex a provision for additional peremptory challenges. In our view, the ten strikes afforded appellant his due process rights. There is no reason shown to abrogate the legislative prescription. See State v. Bailey, 273 S.C. 467, 257 S.E.2d 231 (1979).

Page 36

(5) Appellant also contends certain testimony admitted over objection was prejudicial hearsay requiring reversal. We think not. The testimony was elicited [275 S.C. 118] from a witness who was talking over the telephone to Mrs. Medlin shortly before she was murdered. The witness identified the voice of appellant in the background and testified Mrs. Medlin said, "Don't hit me . . .. It makes me think of the time you drug me out by the hair of my head from the Steak and Eggs."

The quotation was not offered as proof of the truth of the matters asserted therein, but rather as evidence of appellant's opportunity and the decedent's state of mind at the apparent outset of the transaction of events culminating in her murder. As such, the assertions were not objectionable as hearsay. See Player v. Thompson, 259 S.C. 600, 193 S.E.2d 531 (1972); Dreher, A Guide to Evidence Law in South Carolina (1967).

Furthermore, this evidence was merely cumulative to other evidence and, to an extent, appellant's confession; see State v. Smith, 230 S.C. 164, 94 S.E.2d 886 (1956); see also cases collected in 7A West's South Carolina Digest, Criminal Law at Key Number 1169(1); Watts v. Bell Oil Company of Ocean Drive, Inc., 266 S.C. 61, 221 S.E.2d 529 (1976); and the testifying witness was fully cross-examined by appellant's counsel. State v. Evans, 202 S.C. 463, 25 S.E.2d 492 (1943), cert. denied, 320 U.S. 750, 64 S.Ct. 54, 88 L.Ed. 446.

(6) Next, appellant excepts to the lower court's denial of his motion for a change of venue based on news accounts of the case. Such a motion is discretionary with the trial judge, State v. Tyner, supra, and it is the defendant's burden to demonstrate actual juror prejudice as a result of the juror's awareness of the accounts. State v. Fowler, 266 S.C. 203, 222 S.E.2d 497 (1976). The record reflects maximum precaution by the trial judge to ensure the elimination of potential jurors that may have been prejudiced by the pretrial publicity, and the absence of prejudice on the part of those chosen to serve. No prejudice is shown, nor an abuse of the trial judge's discretion.

[275 S.C. 119] (7) Appellant objected to certain testimony on the ground the solicitor was leading a witness. The witness on direct examination by the State testified she heard a "struggle" over the telephone, which testimony was struck as conclusory. The solicitor then began breathing loudly, and asked the witness to describe what she heard him doing. Over objection she replied "heavy breathing", whereupon the solicitor asked her if she heard any heavy breathing over the phone, and once again over objection, the witness answered affirmatively.

A trial judge is vested with wide discretion...

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36 practice notes
  • State v. Copeland, No. 21808
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 10, 1982
    ...penalty statutes. We held these statutes constitutional in State v. Linder, 276 S.C. 304, 278 S.E.2d 335 (1981) and State v. Goolsby, 275 S.C. 110, 268 S.E.2d 31 (1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1037, 101 S.Ct. 616, 66 L.Ed.2d 500 Next, appellants contend imposition of the death penalty for t......
  • California v. Ramos, No. 81-1893
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • July 6, 1983
    ...aff'd, 343 U.S. 790, 72 S.Ct. 1002, 96 L.Ed. 1302 (1952); Commonwealth v. Aljoe, 420 Pa. 198, 216 A.2d 50 (1966); State v. Goolsby, 275 S.C. 110, 268 S.E.2d 31, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1037, 101 S.Ct. 616, 66 L.Ed.2d 500 (1980); Farris v. State, 535 S.W.2d 608 (Tenn.1976) (non-capital); Clan......
  • State v. Torrence, No. 23403
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 1, 1989
    ...these decisions unequivocally state that parole Page 322 is not a proper consideration for capital sentencing juries. In State v. Goolsby, 275 S.C. 110, 268 S.E.2d 31 (1980), we held that the trial court's charge to the jury erroneously included reference to parole eligibility. The error wa......
  • State v. Easler, No. 2512
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 2, 1996
    ...at trial. Id. It is the defendant's burden to demonstrate actual juror prejudice as a result of such publicity. State v. Goolsby, 275 S.C. 110, 268 S.E.2d 31 (1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1037, 101 S.Ct. 616, 66 L.Ed.2d 500 Caldwell, 300 S.C. at 502, 388 S.E.2d at 820-821. See also State v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
36 cases
  • State v. Copeland, No. 21808
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 10, 1982
    ...penalty statutes. We held these statutes constitutional in State v. Linder, 276 S.C. 304, 278 S.E.2d 335 (1981) and State v. Goolsby, 275 S.C. 110, 268 S.E.2d 31 (1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1037, 101 S.Ct. 616, 66 L.Ed.2d 500 Next, appellants contend imposition of the death penalty for t......
  • California v. Ramos, No. 81-1893
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • July 6, 1983
    ...aff'd, 343 U.S. 790, 72 S.Ct. 1002, 96 L.Ed. 1302 (1952); Commonwealth v. Aljoe, 420 Pa. 198, 216 A.2d 50 (1966); State v. Goolsby, 275 S.C. 110, 268 S.E.2d 31, cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1037, 101 S.Ct. 616, 66 L.Ed.2d 500 (1980); Farris v. State, 535 S.W.2d 608 (Tenn.1976) (non-capital); Clan......
  • State v. Torrence, No. 23403
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 1, 1989
    ...these decisions unequivocally state that parole Page 322 is not a proper consideration for capital sentencing juries. In State v. Goolsby, 275 S.C. 110, 268 S.E.2d 31 (1980), we held that the trial court's charge to the jury erroneously included reference to parole eligibility. The error wa......
  • State v. Easler, No. 2512
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 2, 1996
    ...at trial. Id. It is the defendant's burden to demonstrate actual juror prejudice as a result of such publicity. State v. Goolsby, 275 S.C. 110, 268 S.E.2d 31 (1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1037, 101 S.Ct. 616, 66 L.Ed.2d 500 Caldwell, 300 S.C. at 502, 388 S.E.2d at 820-821. See also State v......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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