State v. Holmes

Decision Date01 November 2004
Docket NumberNo. 25886.,25886.
Citation605 S.E.2d 19,361 S.C. 333
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Bobby Lee HOLMES, Appellant.

Senior Assistant Appellate Defender Wanda Haile, of Columbia, for appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, and Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, all of Columbia; and Thomas E. Pope, of York, for respondent.

Justice MOORE:

Appellant was convicted1 of murder, first degree burglary, first degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC), and robbery. He received a death sentence for the murder, the jury having found three statutory aggravating circumstances,2 and received three concurrent sentences for the other offenses.3 Appellant alleges errors occurred in both the guilt phase and the sentencing phase of his trial. We affirm appellant's convictions and sentences.


At approximately 6:15 a.m. on December 31, 1989, the eighty-six-year-old victim opened her door in response to someone's knocking. A black male forced his way into her apartment, beat her about the chest and head, and demanded money. The man forced the victim into her bedroom where he ripped off her nightgown and anally raped her. He took $40 from her purse and left the apartment after ripping the living room phone from the wall.

At 7:45 a.m., the victim's friend (Mrs. Thrasher) phoned to check on the victim. After six or seven rings, the victim answered and told Mrs. Thrasher she had been beaten, anally raped, and robbed. Mrs. Thrasher called another friend, Mrs. Byers, who had an automobile and a key to the victim's apartment. Mrs. Byers went to the apartment, noticed it was messy, spoke with the victim who told her the assailant was "big and dark," and then drove to the police department since the living room phone had been pulled off the wall.4

The first officer on the scene was Dale Edwards. The victim told him that around 6 or 6:30 a.m. she heard knocking at her front door and that when she opened the door, a black male forced his way in. She had taken a shower before the police arrived. Officer Edwards removed the sheets and pillowcase from the bed for use as evidence, and placed the items in a paper grocery bag taken from the victim's kitchen. Lt. Barnett arrived and assisted in the evidence collection. A pink nightgown, a housecoat, and a rag were removed from the bathroom and placed in another grocery bag. The victim gave Officer Edwards a pink paper towel with blood on it that he placed in a manila envelope brought to the scene by Captain Mobley, the third officer on the scene.

While the three police officers were there, two paramedics arrived to transport the victim to a local hospital emergency room. Blood samples were taken, but a rape kit was not processed because the victim was complaining of hip pain and medical personnel were awaiting X-rays before performing the exam. The blood testing kit used to take samples from the victim had "expired" several months earlier.5 Before the victim's mental state began to deteriorate, she described her attacker to an emergency room nurse as a black male in his late twenties. On February 19, 1990, the victim was transferred to a nursing home where she died in March. The cause of death was pneumonia, which developed as the consequence of her severe brain injury.

Captain Mobley testified he arrived at the victim's apartment as the EMS personnel were transporting her out the door. He took custody of the evidentiary items from Officer Edwards and Lt. Barnett. He sent Officer Edwards door to door in the neighborhood and instructed Lt. Barnett to go to the hospital and speak with the victim.

Lt. Barnett recorded the victim's statement at the hospital emergency room before she became confused. She described her attacker's clothing: "a dark jacket, must have been blue or black, must have been black;" "a pair of those funny looking pants ... not the old pant, but something that's kind of mixed up you know;" his hair: "kind of long. Not too long, but a little longer than you usually wear it;" she then said: "he was middle aged. He was young. He was not too young. And he, as I remember, his hair was not short or not too long." The victim described her attacker as dark skinned, "not too heavy. Not too slim."

Later that day, Officer Edwards talked to several of the victim's neighbors. Ms. Boyd told him she heard knocking at her door about 3 a.m.; Mr. Lynn, who lived next door to the victim, reported knocking between 5:30 a.m. and 6:30 a.m.; and Ms. Diggs, who lived on the other side of the victim, heard someone knocking on her door around 6 or 6:30 a.m.

Officer Grady Harper testified he was dispatched to an apartment complex near the victim's residence at about 4:43 a.m. on December 31, 1989. A number of people, including appellant, were making a disturbance, and Officer Harper told them to quiet down and move on. Appellant was unruly, and Officer Harper called for back-up to assist in arresting appellant. When the additional officers arrived, appellant ran. Officer Harper saw appellant get into a car; Officer Harper gave chase in his patrol car. The driver stopped the car and appellant ran from it. The last time Officer Harper saw appellant was about 5:30 a.m. and the other officers were chasing appellant. One of the "chasing" officers testified he lost sight of appellant at about 5:20 a.m. Appellant was wearing a black sweater with a hood and blue jeans.

Captain Mobley testified that after Officer Edwards and Lt. Barnett left the victim's apartment; he locked the front door and began processing the scene. He seized one more paper towel, the telephone touched by the assailant, and the victim's purse. He then dusted the apartment for fingerprints. On the interior side of the front door he photographed and lifted a palm print located slightly above the doorknob. Captain Mobley also photographed and lifted a print from the outside of the front door. The inside palm print was later identified as that of appellant.

Appellant was arrested on the afternoon of December 31, 1989, at his father's home in York, and denied ever having been inside the victim's apartment. When the police arrived, appellant was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, underwear, and socks. He dressed in jeans before being transported by the police. While he was dressing, Officer Boot Smith noticed a tank top that appeared to have blood on it and asked if the police officers could take it. Appellant consented and stated the blood came from a fight he had been involved in the night before at a bar.

Forensic evidence linked appellant to the crime scene. In addition to the palm print found on the victim's door, the State introduced evidence that:

(1) fibers consistent with a black sweatshirt owned by appellant were found on the victim's bed sheets;
(2) a blue acrylic fiber was found on the victim's pink nightgown, and another on appellant's blue jeans: they "could have come from the same common source or it could have come from different sources, but indeed they do ... match each other;"
(3) microscopically consistent fibers were found on the pink nightgown and, in the form of a "fiber pill," on appellant's underwear;
(4) appellant's underwear contained a mixture of DNA from two individuals and 99.99% of the population other than appellant and the victim were excluded as contributors to that mixture; and
(5) appellant's tank top was found to contain a mixture of his blood and the victim's blood.

The defense theory was two-fold. First, it sought to discredit the forensic evidence by showing the evidence was mishandled and by demonstrating the many opportunities for contamination because of unprofessional errors. The defense also sought to suggest that the alleged contamination was not merely the result of simple negligence, but part of a plot on the part of certain law enforcement officers to see that appellant was convicted of these crimes. In connection with this prong of the defense strategy, appellant sought to introduce evidence of third party guilt.


Whether the circuit court erred by refusing to admit evidence of third party guilt?

At a pretrial hearing, appellant proffered evidence of third party guilt. Specifically, he sought to introduce evidence at trial that the crimes were actually committed by Jimmy McCaw White (Jimmy).

1. Pre-trial testimony

Like appellant, Jimmy is a black male. At the time of the victim's murder, he was twenty-two years old; appellant was eighteen. Jimmy's hair was longer than appellant's and Jimmy had lighter skin than appellant.

Several witnesses placed Jimmy in the victim's neighborhood near 6 a.m. on December 31, 1989. Frenetta Johnson testified she saw Jimmy going toward the apartments where the victim lived between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m. Later in her testimony, she narrowed the time to "from four-thirty to something to five." Meshelley Gilmore testified she observed Jimmy in an apartment parking lot as she drove away from her home at about 3:30 or 4 a.m., and that he was still there when she returned at 4:30-4:45 a.m. These apartments were near the victim's complex. Mrs. Gilmore was awakened by a police officer knocking on her door at 7:30 a.m. She told him she had seen Jimmy hanging around the parking lot earlier that morning.

Deloris Brown testified she saw Jimmy walking down the victim's street in the direction of the victim's apartment between 4 and 5 a.m. on December 31, 1989. Eighty-seven-year-old Anna Boyd, a resident of the same apartment complex as the victim, testified that someone knocked on her door during the night of December 30-December 31. The knocker said, "Open the door, my man, this is Jimmy, open the door." These are appellant's "proximity" witnesses.

Appellant also presented several witnesses who testified that Jimmy had acknowledged that appellant was "innocent" or to...

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37 cases
  • Pavatt v. Trammell
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. Western District of Oklahoma
    • May 1, 2014
    ...evidence against him to raise a reasonable inference of his ownPage 41innocence.'" Holmes, 547 U.S. at 324 (quoting State v. Holmes, 605 S.E.2d 19, 24 (S.C. 2004)). In Holmes, the Supreme Court discussed the constitutional balance between the wide latitude given to States in constructing ev......
  • People v. Robinson, S040703.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 15, 2005
    ...At oral argument, counsel for defendant suggested that the United States Supreme Court's recent grant of certiorari in State v. Holmes (2004) 361 S.C. 333, 605 S.E.2d 19 (see Holmes v. South Carolina (2005) ___ U.S. ___, 126 S.Ct. 34, 162 L.Ed.2d 232) assists him. We disagree. In Holmes the......
  • State v. Rice, 4300.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 5, 2007
    ...33 n. 1 (1998)). The United States Supreme Court examined and clarified the rule announced in Gregory in its review of State v. Holmes, 361 S.C. 333, 605 S.E.2d 19 (2004). Holmes v. South Carolina, 547 U.S. 319, 126 S.Ct. 1727, 164 L.Ed.2d 503 (2006). Holmes was convicted in state circuit c......
  • People v. Robinson, S040703.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • December 15, 2005
    ...At oral argument, counsel for defendant suggested that the United States Supreme Court's recent grant of certiorari in State v. Holmes (2004) 361 S.C. 333, 605 S.E.2d 19 (see Holmes v. South Carolina (2005) ___ U.S. ___, 126 S.Ct. 34, 162 L.Ed.2d 232) assists him. We disagree. In Holmes the......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • Every juror wants a story: narrative relevance, third party guilt and the right to present a defense.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 44 No. 3, June 2007
    • June 22, 2007 corroborate White's statements. (69.) Joint Appendix Vol. I, supra note 2, at 135. (70.) See id. at 137. (71.) State v. Holmes, 605 S.E.2d 19 (S.C. 2004), vacated and remanded by, Holmes v. South Carolina, 126 S.Ct. 1727 (72.) Id. at 24 (discussing State v. Gay, 541 S.E.2d 541 (S.C. 2001......
  • The Evidence of Things Not Seen: Non-Matches as Evidence of Innocence
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review No. 98-2, January 2013
    • January 1, 2013
    ...cases). 435. Holmes v. South Carolina, 547 U.S. 319, 329 (2006) (alteration in original) (emphasis added) (quoting State v. Holmes, 605 S.E.2d 19, 24 (S.C. 2004)). 436. Id. at 328 (alteration in original) (quoting State v. Gregory, 16 S.E.2d 532, 534 (S.C. 1942)) (internal quotation marks o......

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