State v. Johnson, No. 25945.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtChief Justice TOAL
Citation363 S.C. 53,609 S.E.2d 520
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Alexander Santee JOHNSON, Appellant.
Decision Date22 February 2005
Docket NumberNo. 25945.

363 S.C. 53
609 S.E.2d 520

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Alexander Santee JOHNSON, Appellant

No. 25945.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard November 16, 2004.

Decided February 22, 2005.


363 S.C. 55
Assistant Appellate Defender Robert M. Dudek, of SC Office of Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for Appellant

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Robert M. Ariail, of Greenville, for Respondent.

Chief Justice TOAL:

A jury convicted Alexander Santee Johnson (Petitioner) of murder. At trial, the judge allowed evidence of Petitioner's prior convictions to be admitted. The court of appeals affirmed,

363 S.C. 56
holding that, although the trial judge erred in admitting evidence of Petitioner's prior convictions, the error was harmless. State v. Johnson, Op. No.2003-UP-188 (S.C. Ct.App. filed March 12, 2003). This Court granted certiorari to review the decision of the court of appeals. We affirm

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Petitioner was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. On direct appeal, this Court reversed the conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. State v. Johnson, 333 S.C. 62, 508 S.E.2d 29 (1998).

Petitioner was retried for murder in 2000. At trial, Petitioner sought to have his 1986 convictions for second-degree burglary and grand larceny excluded from evidence on the basis that the convictions were more than ten years old. The trial judge ruled that the prior convictions were admissible because they were within ten years of the alleged offense and they were crimes of moral turpitude.

On direct examination, Petitioner acknowledged the prior convictions and stated that he spent thirty days in a juvenile facility when he was twelve or thirteen years old.1 Petitioner was not questioned about his prior convictions on cross examination.

After closing argument, but before the judge charged the jury, the judge clarified his ruling on the admissibility of the prior convictions. The judge reasoned that the probative value of the prior convictions outweighed their prejudicial effect.

The jury convicted Petitioner of murder, and he appealed. The court of appeals affirmed the decision of the trial court, holding that the admission of the prior convictions was harmless. State v. Johnson, Op. No. 2003-UP-188 (S.C. Ct.App. filed March 12, 2003). This Court granted certiorari, and Petitioner now raises the following issues for review:

363 S.C. 57
I. Did the trial court apply the proper legal standard in calculating the ten-year time limit under Rule 609(b), SCRE?
II. Did the trial court err by using the moral turpitude standard to determine the admissibility of Petitioner's prior convictions?
III. Did the trial court err in failing to conduct the proper balancing test as set forth by State v. Colf?
IV. Did the admission of Petitioner's prior convictions constitute prejudicial error?

LAW/ANALYSIS

I. Rule 609(b), SCRE

Petitioner argues that the trial judge erred in admitting Petitioner's prior convictions because the trial judge did not apply the proper legal standard in calculating the ten-year time limit under Rule 609(b), SCRE. We agree.

Evidence of a prior conviction is admissible to impeach a witness unless a period of more than ten years has elapsed since the date (1) of the conviction or (2) of the release of the witness from confinement for that conviction, whichever date is later. Rule 609(b), SCRE. The evidence is admissible, however, if the trial judge determines that the probative value of the conviction substantially outweighs its prejudicial effect. Id.

In 1986, Petitioner was sentenced to thirty days as a juvenile for grand larceny and burglary. The record does not reflect which date is later, the date of the conviction or the release from confinement. What is certain is that the time of release from confinement and the date of the conviction are both pre-1990. Because Petitioner's trial was in 2000, the 1986 conviction was improperly admitted. Therefore, we hold that the trial court erred in calculating the ten-year time period under Rule 609(b), SCRE.

II. Moral Turpitude Standard

Petitioner argues that the trial judge erred by using the moral turpitude standard to determine that Petitioner's prior

363 S.C. 58
convictions were admissible. We agree, but the issue is not preserved for review

Under prior common law, moral turpitude was described as "an act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the social duties which a man owes to his fellow man or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule or right and duty between man and man." ...

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111 practice notes
  • State v. Kirton, No. 4470.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 17 Diciembre 2008
    ...weekends before their interview. No contemporaneous objection was made when Dr. Rahter testified about the abuse. See State v. Johnson, 363 S.C. 53, 58-59, 609 S.E.2d 520, 523 (2005) ("To preserve an issue for review there must be a contemporaneous objection that is ruled upon by the trial ......
  • State v. Curry, No. 4159.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 9 Octubre 2006
    ...disagree. To constitute error, a ruling to admit or exclude evidence must affect a substantial right. Rule 103(a), SCRE; State v. Johnson, 363 S.C. 53, 60, 609 S.E.2d 520, 524 (2005). However, error is harmless where it could not reasonably have affected the trial's outcome. State v. Mitche......
  • State v. Williams, Opinion No. 5405
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 25 Mayo 2016
    ...“To preserve an issue for review there must be a contemporaneous objection that is ruled upon by the trial court.” State v. Johnson , 363 S.C. 53, 58, 609 S.E.2d 520, 523 (2005). “If a party fails to properly object, the party is procedurally barred from raising the issue on appeal.” Id. at......
  • State v. Black, No. 27176.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 3 Octubre 2012
    ...the trial court expressly finds the probative value of the conviction “substantially outweighs” its prejudicial effect. State v. Johnson, 363 S.C. 53, 609 S.E.2d 520 (2005). The rule provides in relevant part: (b) Time Limit. Evidence of a conviction under this rule is not admissible if a p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
111 cases
  • State v. Kirton, No. 4470.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 17 Diciembre 2008
    ...weekends before their interview. No contemporaneous objection was made when Dr. Rahter testified about the abuse. See State v. Johnson, 363 S.C. 53, 58-59, 609 S.E.2d 520, 523 (2005) ("To preserve an issue for review there must be a contemporaneous objection that is ruled upon by the trial ......
  • State v. Curry, No. 4159.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 9 Octubre 2006
    ...disagree. To constitute error, a ruling to admit or exclude evidence must affect a substantial right. Rule 103(a), SCRE; State v. Johnson, 363 S.C. 53, 60, 609 S.E.2d 520, 524 (2005). However, error is harmless where it could not reasonably have affected the trial's outcome. State v. Mitche......
  • State v. Williams, Opinion No. 5405
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 25 Mayo 2016
    ...“To preserve an issue for review there must be a contemporaneous objection that is ruled upon by the trial court.” State v. Johnson , 363 S.C. 53, 58, 609 S.E.2d 520, 523 (2005). “If a party fails to properly object, the party is procedurally barred from raising the issue on appeal.” Id. at......
  • State v. Black, No. 27176.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 3 Octubre 2012
    ...the trial court expressly finds the probative value of the conviction “substantially outweighs” its prejudicial effect. State v. Johnson, 363 S.C. 53, 609 S.E.2d 520 (2005). The rule provides in relevant part: (b) Time Limit. Evidence of a conviction under this rule is not admissible if a p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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