State v. Lyles, No. 4406.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtAnderson
Citation379 S.C. 328,665 S.E.2d 201
PartiesSTATE of South Carolina, Respondent, v. Lance LYLES, Appellant.
Decision Date06 June 2008
Docket NumberNo. 4406.
665 S.E.2d 201
379 S.C. 328
STATE of South Carolina, Respondent,
v.
Lance LYLES, Appellant.
No. 4406.
Court of Appeals of South Carolina.
Heard June 3, 2008.
Decided June 6, 2008.
Rehearing Denied August 25, 2008.

[665 S.E.2d 203]

Tara Dawn Shurling, 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 Harold W. Gowdy, III, of Spartanburg, for Respondent.

ANDERSON, J.


Lance Lyles (Lyles) appeals his convictions for murder, attempted first degree burglary, attempted armed robbery, and possession of a pistol by a person under the age of twenty-one. Lyles contends that the circuit court erred by excluding the proffered testimony of two defense witnesses because the exclusion constituted an abuse of discretion by denying Lyles his due process right to present witnesses in his own defense. We affirm.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On December 8, 2004, two men approached the apartment of Clarence Spicer (Spicer) in Spartanburg, South Carolina. At the time, Spicer, known as "See" or "C.", and the victim, Tavaris Howze (Howze), were the only people inside the apartment. Spicer recounted the events:

[T]wo guys came up to my door, one of them with a mask and a gun and the other with a hood covering his face.

I opened the door and saw that. One of the guys tried to step in. I stopped him on his way in. The other guy came from the side with a gun and a mask on, and I started trying to close the door. And while I was closing the door one of them shot inside of my house, and that's when [Howze] was shot.

Spicer called 911 and waited for the authorities. Upon their arrival, police officers discovered Howze's body in the apartment with a gunshot wound to the head. Howze died from his injuries.

At the time of the shooting, Spicer did not recognize either of the men. However, he later recalled the identity of the individual in the hood as Lance Lyles because Lyles had visited Spicer's apartment several weeks beforehand. Spicer relayed Lyles' identity to the police and an arrest warrant was issued. Police officers then approached Lyles and a chase ensued. He was subsequently apprehended and arrested. Spicer was able to identify Lyles as one of the assailants from a photographic lineup and again at trial. Following the arrest, police searched Lyles' residence and discovered multiple rounds of ammunition in various sizes, several shell casings, and a jacket containing a ski mask.

Several days after Lyles' arrest, Joshua Jeter (Jeter) was arrested as Lyles' accomplice to the crimes. Jeter indicated he and Lyles had been outside of Spicer's apartment on the night of the incident and Jeter was wearing a ski mask. However, Jeter did not admit he was carrying a firearm at the scene until making another statement almost a year after his arrest. In the latter statement, Jeter conceded he carried a pistol to the apartment but claimed it was a different caliber than the weapon that killed Howze.

Both Lyles and Jeter were indicted for several offenses including murder, burglary in the first degree, armed robbery, and unlawful possession of a pistol by a person under the age of twenty-one. At trial, both individuals testified in their own defense. Lyles and Jeter gave conflicting accounts of the incident with each inculpating the other as the shooter. However, each corroborated they had originally gone to the apartment to purchase drugs from Spicer and had no intention of robbing him.

Both men were convicted of murder, attempted burglary in the first degree, attempted armed robbery, and unlawful possession of a pistol by a person under the age

665 S.E.2d 204

of twenty-one. Lyles was sentenced to life for murder and other consecutive sentences for the lesser offenses.

ISSUE

Did trial judge err in excluding testimony as unfairly prejudicial and irrelevant when the proffered statements went to establishing (1) drugs were previously sold from the apartment where the incident occurred and (2) drugs were present in the apartment at the time of the incident?

STANDARD OF REVIEW

In criminal cases, the appellate court sits to review errors of law only. State v. Preslar, 364 S.C. 466, 472, 613 S.E.2d 381, 384 (Ct.App.2005) (citing State v. Wilson, 345 S.C. 1, 5, 545 S.E.2d 827, 829 (2001); State v. Wood, 362 S.C. 520, 525, 608 S.E.2d 435, 438 (Ct.App.2004)); State v. Landis, 362 S.C. 97, 101, 606 S.E.2d 503, 505 (Ct.App.2004); State v. Abdullah, 357 S.C. 344, 349, 592 S.E.2d 344, 347 (Ct.App.2004). "This court is bound by the trial court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous." Preslar, 364 S.C. at 472, 613 S.E.2d at 384; accord State v. Baccus, 367 S.C. 41, 48, 625 S.E.2d 216, 220 (2006) (citing State v. Quattlebaum, 338 S.C. 441, 442, 527 S.E.2d 105, 111 (2000)). The appellate court does not re-evaluate the facts based on its own view of the evidence but simply determines whether the trial judge's ruling is supported by any evidence. State v. White, 372 S.C. 364, 372, 642 S.E.2d 607, 611 (Ct.App.2007) (citing Wilson, 345 S.C. at 6, 545 S.E.2d at 829; State v. Mattison, 352 S.C. 577, 583, 575 S.E.2d 852, 855 (Ct.App.2003)); Preslar, 364 S.C. at 472, 613 S.E.2d at 384.

"The admission or exclusion of evidence is left to the sound discretion of the trial judge, whose decision will not be reversed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion." State v. Saltz, 346 S.C. 114, 121, 551 S.E.2d 240, 244 (2001); accord State v. Pagan, 369 S.C. 201, 208, 631 S.E.2d 262, 265 (2006); State v. Gaster, 349 S.C. 545, 557, 564 S.E.2d 87, 93 (2002); State v. McDonald, 343 S.C. 319, 325, 540 S.E.2d 464, 467 (2000); State v. Tucker, 319 S.C. 425, 428, 462 S.E.2d 263, 265 (1995) (citing State v. Bailey, 276 S.C. 32, 37, 274 S.E.2d 913, 916 (1981)); Wright v. Craft, 372 S.C. 1, 33, 640 S.E.2d 486, 503 (Ct.App.2006); State v. Funderburk, 367 S.C. 236, 239, 625 S.E.2d 248, 249-250 (Ct.App.2006); State v. Broaddus, 361 S.C. 534, 539, 605 S.E.2d 579, 582 (Ct.App.2004). "A court's ruling on the admissibility of evidence will not be reversed by this Court absent an abuse of discretion or the commission of legal error which results in prejudice to the defendant." State v. Hamilton, 344 S.C. 344, 353, 543 S.E.2d 586, 591 (Ct.App.2001), overruled on other grounds by State v. Gentry, 363 S.C. 93, 610 S.E.2d 494 (2005); accord Preslar, 364 S.C. at 472, 613 S.E.2d at 384; State v. McLeod, 362 S.C. 73, 79, 606 S.E.2d 215, 218-219 (Ct.App.2004); State v. Mansfield, 343 S.C. 66, 77, 538 S.E.2d 257, 263 (Ct.App.2000); State v. Blassingame, 338 S.C. 240, 251, 525 S.E.2d 535, 541 (Ct.App.1999); State v. Patterson, 337 S.C. 215, 228, 522 S.E.2d 845, 851 (Ct.App.1999); see State v. Jones, 343 S.C. 562, 572, 541 S.E.2d 813, 818 (2001) ("The trial judge's decision to admit or exclude the evidence is reviewed on appeal under an abuse of discretion standard."); State v. Taylor, 333 S.C. 159, 172, 508 S.E.2d 870, 876 (1998) ("[I]n order for this Court to reverse a case based on the erroneous admission or exclusion of evidence, prejudice must be shown."). "An abuse of discretion arises from an error of law or a factual conclusion that is without evidentiary support." State v. Irick, 344 S.C. 460, 463, 545 S.E.2d 282, 284 (2001) (citing Lee v. Suess, 318 S.C. 283, 285, 457 S.E.2d 344, 346 (1995)); accord State v. Edwards, 374 S.C. 543, 553, 649 S.E.2d 112, 117 (Ct.App.2007); State v. Sweet, 374 S.C. 1, 5, 647 S.E.2d 202, 204-205 (2007); State v. Douglas, 367 S.C. 498, 507, 626 S.E.2d 59, 64 (Ct.App.2006); State v. Adkins, 353 S.C. 312, 326, 577 S.E.2d 460, 468 (Ct.App.2003).

"To show prejudice, there must be a reasonable probability that the jury's verdict was influenced by the challenged evidence or the lack thereof." White, 372 S.C. at 374, 642 S.E.2d at 611 (citing Fields v. Regional Med. Ctr. Orangeburg, 363 S.C. 19, 26, 609 S.E.2d 506, 509 (2005)); accord Vaught v. A.O. Hardee & Sons, Inc., 366 S.C. 475, 480, 623 S.E.2d 373, 375 (2005). "Error is harmless when it `could not reasonably have affected

665 S.E.2d 205

the result of the trial.'" State v. Mitchell, 286 S.C. 572, 573, 336 S.E.2d 150, 151 (1985) (quoting State v. Key, 256 S.C. 90, 93, 180 S.E.2d 888, 890 (1971)); accord State v. Sherard, 303 S.C. 172, 175, 399 S.E.2d 595, 596 (1991); Broaddus, 361 S.C. at 542, 605 S.E.2d at 583; State v. Adams, 354 S.C. 361, 380, 580 S.E.2d 785, 795 (Ct.App.2003); see also Chapman v. California, 386 U.S. 18, 22, 87 S.Ct. 824, 17 L.Ed.2d 705 (1967) ("[S]ome constitutional errors which in the setting of a particular case are so unimportant and insignificant that they may, consistent with the Federal Constitution, be deemed harmless, not requiring the automatic reversal of the conviction."); State v. Rice, 375 S.C. 302, 316, 652 S.E.2d 409, 415 (Ct.App.2007) ("The commission of legal error is harmless if it does not result in prejudice to the defendant."); Visual Graphics Leasing Corp., Inc. v. Lucia, 311 S.C. 484, 489, 429 S.E.2d 839, 841 (Ct.App.1993) ("An error is not reversible unless it is material and prejudicial to the substantial rights of the appellant."). "When guilt has been conclusively proven by competent evidence such that no other rational conclusion can be reached, [an appellate] court should not set aside a conviction because of errors not affecting the results." Broaddus, 361 S.C. at 542, 605 S.E.2d at 583 (citing Hill v. State, 350 S.C. 465, 472, 567 S.E.2d 847, 851 (2002)).

LAW/ANALYSIS

Lyles avers the exclusion of testimony regarding prior drug sale solicitations at the apartment where the shooting occurred and the presence of drugs next to the victim constituted an abuse of discretion by the trial judge and was a denial of his due process rights. We disagree.

A. How the Issue was Raised

At the nascency of trial, the State anticipated the attorneys for both Lyles and Jeter were planning to address...

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62 practice notes
  • State v. Heyward, Appellate Case No. 2017-001542
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • October 14, 2020
    ...of a piece of evidence, "the determination must be based on the entire record and will turn on the facts of each case." State v. Lyles , 379 S.C. 328, 338, 665 S.E.2d 201, 206 (Ct. App. 2008)."To be classified as unfairly prejudicial, photographs must have a ‘tendency to suggest a decision ......
  • State v. Ostrowski, Appellate Case No. 2018-000423
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 24, 2021
    ...must be based on the entire record and the result will generally turn on the facts of each case. " (emphasis added)); State v. Lyles , 379 S.C. 328, 338, 665 S.E.2d 201, 206 (Ct. App. 2008) ("When juxtaposing the prejudicial effect against the probative value, the determination must be base......
  • State v. Daise, Appellate Case No. 2013-002394
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 25, 2017
    ...court is reviewed by an appellate tribunal." State v. Green, 412 S.C. 65, 79, 770 S.E.2d 424, 432 (Ct. App. 2015) (quoting State v. Lyles, 379 S.C. 328, 339, 665 S.E.2d 201, 207 (Ct. App. 2008) ). We find the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the photograph.421 S.C. 46......
  • State v. Ostrowski, 5872
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 24, 2021
    ...must be based on the entire record and the result will generally turn on the facts of each case." (emphasis added)); State v. Lyles, 379 S.C. 328, 338, 665 S.E.2d 201, 206 (Ct. App. 2008) ("When juxtaposing the prejudicial effect against the probative value, the determination must be based ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
62 cases
  • State v. Heyward, Appellate Case No. 2017-001542
    • United States
    • South Carolina Court of Appeals
    • October 14, 2020
    ...of a piece of evidence, "the determination must be based on the entire record and will turn on the facts of each case." State v. Lyles , 379 S.C. 328, 338, 665 S.E.2d 201, 206 (Ct. App. 2008)."To be classified as unfairly prejudicial, photographs must have a ‘tendency to suggest a decision ......
  • State v. Ostrowski, Appellate Case No. 2018-000423
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 24, 2021
    ...must be based on the entire record and the result will generally turn on the facts of each case. " (emphasis added)); State v. Lyles , 379 S.C. 328, 338, 665 S.E.2d 201, 206 (Ct. App. 2008) ("When juxtaposing the prejudicial effect against the probative value, the determination must be base......
  • State v. Daise, Appellate Case No. 2013-002394
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 25, 2017
    ...court is reviewed by an appellate tribunal." State v. Green, 412 S.C. 65, 79, 770 S.E.2d 424, 432 (Ct. App. 2015) (quoting State v. Lyles, 379 S.C. 328, 339, 665 S.E.2d 201, 207 (Ct. App. 2008) ). We find the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the photograph.421 S.C. 46......
  • State v. Ostrowski, 5872
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • November 24, 2021
    ...must be based on the entire record and the result will generally turn on the facts of each case." (emphasis added)); State v. Lyles, 379 S.C. 328, 338, 665 S.E.2d 201, 206 (Ct. App. 2008) ("When juxtaposing the prejudicial effect against the probative value, the determination must be based ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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