State v. McEachern, Opinion No.  4981

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtHUFF
PartiesThe State, Respondent, v. Hollie McEachern, Appellant.
Decision Date06 June 2012
Docket NumberOpinion No.  4981

The State, Respondent,
Hollie McEachern, Appellant.

Opinion No. 4981


Heard: January 12, 2012
Filed: June 6, 2012

Appeal From Kershaw County
G. Thomas Cooper, Jr., Circuit Court Judge


Jack B. Swerling, of Columbia, and Katherine Carruth Goode, of Winnsboro, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, Assistant Attorney General David Spencer, and Solicitor Daniel E. Johnson, all of Columbia, for Respondent.

HUFF, J.: Hollie McEachern was convicted of trafficking in cocaine, trafficking in crack cocaine, and possession with intent to distribute marijuana, and was sentenced to concurrent terms of twenty-five, ten and five years, respectively. McEachern appeals, asserting the trial court erred in admitting various testimony, failing to sustain her objection to certain arguments by the State which exceeded limitations placed by the trial court, denying her mistrial motion based on improper comment by the State and denying her motion for a new trial.


On March 9, 2007, Hollie McEachern was arrested, along with others, after Dominic Thomas set up a drug deal for the Kershaw County Sheriff's Department, following Dominic's arrest by the Department earlier that day. Dominic testified that after he was caught in a drug transaction involving cocaine, he offered to call some people from whom he could obtain drugs. As a result, he called his friend Raheem, who kept Dominic on hold, telling him "he had to call his girl Hollie." Dominic told Raheem he wanted a "Big 8," which is four and a half ounces of powder cocaine. During this phone call, Dominic had Raheem on speaker phone, where Lieutenant Dowey could hear the conversation. Raheem indicated he was "waiting on his girl to see if she was going to do it," because they were not sure they wanted to meet with Dominic. Arrangements were ultimately made to meet in front of a nail salon beside Domino's Pizza, where the "Big 8" was to be purchased for $3,200. An officer then drove Dominic to the location in Dominic's truck. Dominic got out of his truck and got into a vehicle with Hollie, Terrence Rivera, and Theodore Shepperd, who was known as Raheem. Dominic spoke with the driver, Terrence, who Dominic knew, and then turned to Raheem and asked to see the drugs. Raheem, who was sitting in the back seat with Dominic, had the drugs handed to him from the front seat. Dominic believed it was Hollie who handed Raheem the drugs. Dominic indicated he had half of the money with him, and he told them he was going to get the other half when he got out of the truck, at which time the police then surrounded the area.

Lieutenant Dowey testified that he was standing next to Dominic when Dominic made the phone call to Raheem. When Dominic first called, Raheem said that "he didn't have that much" and he was "waiting on his girl to get there." Raheem called them back, stating that "she had gotten there" and "she had that much." Raheem declined to meet them at McDonald's as they suggested, stating, "Hollie doesn't want to drive that far . . . with that much weight." Ultimately, an agreement was made to meet at the nail salon. A police officer drove Dominic to the location in Dominic's vehicle. An SUV registered to Hollie arrived at the location, with Terrence driving, Hollie sitting in the front passenger seat, and Raheem sitting in the back, behind the driver. After hearing Dominic say the code word, the officers executed the take-down. Lieutenant Dowey stated a search of the vehicle revealed a black bag, located underneath the bench seat where Raheem and Dominic were seated, which contained cocaine, marijuana, a large quantity of crack cocaine, empty baggies and digital scales. Underneath the front seat the officers located a large quantity of cocaine in a red bag. Also found was a cigar blunt, containing marijuana, in the car's console. Terrence had, on his person, two small bags of marijuana and $1,723. Raheem had $320. Hollie had a black purse in her possession which held $2,133 and 32 grams of marijuana. After the arrest was made, Dominic informed Lieutenant Dowey that Hollie had passed the bag of drugs from the front seat to Raheem in the back.

Terrence Rivera testified that he, Hollie, and Raheem are all cousins. On the day in question, he and Hollie left the restaurant owned by Hollie's mother, where they both worked, and went to their aunt's house. Terrence drove Hollie's car because Hollie had a problem with her license. They gave Raheem a ride to a nail salon so he could pick up some money for a party Raheem was going to have. Hollie was in the passenger seat and Raheem was sitting behind her. Raheem got out and then brought Dominic back to the vehicle with him. When asked if he saw anything handed from the front seat to the back seat, Terrence stated, "Not exactly. I seen her turn around, and that was it." He later reiterated that he saw Hollie turn around in the car, but did not "see exactly what she passed or if it was anything." Terrence stated that he was on the phone at the time, and did not really see what was going on in the car. After that, Raheem said something, Dominic got out of the car, and Terrence looked up to see a gun in his face. Terrence admitted he had a bag of marijuana and some money in his pocket, but claimed he was "not guilty of these offenses." Terrence admitted he wrote a note to Raheem stating as follows:

Yo, Ra, just left the courthouse and gave my statement, told them everything, just need you to say that I was on the phone and couldn't hear what y'all was talking about. Told them Hollie gave you the drugs. Just remember I was on the phone and we're good.

Terrence stated he wrote the note to let Raheem know what was going on with his side of the case and that he had given a statement. On cross-examination, Terrence agreed his note told Raheem that he had informed authorities that he saw Hollie pass drugs, but testified that was not true because he did not see Hollie pass drugs. When asked on re-direct why he would lie to Raheem in that manner, Terrence stated, "At the time I was writing, my writing just got ahead of myself, and the letter was already out of my hand."

The State also presented the testimony of Raheem. According to Raheem, on March 9, 2007, he received a call from Dominic about buying some drugs. Dominic wanted a "Big 8." Raheem called his cousin Hollie to see if she could supply the drugs, and he waited on her and Terrence to come get him. With Terrence driving, Hollie in the front passenger seat, and Raheem sitting behind Terrence, they drove to the location. Hollie had pulled a plastic sandwich bag out of the black bag and handed Raheem the drugs over the seat. Dominic got in the car with them, and he told them he was waiting on his cousin to get some money. Once Dominic got out of the car, the police came. When asked why he thought he could get the drugs from Hollie, Raheem stated that he was dealing drugs and she was who he used to get his drugs from in the past, stating it was "an ongoing thing," and characterizing himself as the middle man. Raheem testified that all of the drugs found in the car that day were Hollie's, with the exception of the two bags of marijuana found on Terrence.

The marijuana found in Hollie's pocketbook weighed 32.5 grams. The other marijuana found in the common area of Hollie's automobile weighed 25 grams. The various other drugs in individual plastic bags found in the vehicle tested positive for powder cocaine, with weights of 124.73 grams, 28.77 grams, and 6.61 grams, and crack cocaine, with weights of 12.25 grams, 3.31 grams, and 13.7 grams.

Hollie took the stand in her own defense. She testified that in March 2007, she was the manager of her mother's restaurant, drawing a salary of $400 a week and earning tips on top of that. At the time the incident occurred on March 9, 2007, Hollie stated she had cashed two payroll checks in the amount of $400 each, and that money was in her pocketbook at the time she was arrested. Hollie testified that she also had about $700 cash in her pocketbook that she was supposed to use to pay for a delivery of supplies for the restaurant. About $180 in her pocketbook was a roll of "old 20's" that she collected. The rest of the money in her pocketbook was proceeds from the restaurant that she had not yet deposited into the bank. Hollie testified that none of the money found in her pocketbook was drug money.

On the night in question, she and Terrence left the restaurant to go to her aunt's house, where Raheem lived. Terrence was driving because her license had been suspended for a simple possession of marijuana charge. While there, Raheem asked for a ride to pick up some money for a party Raheem was having that night, and Hollie agreed. They drove to the nail place, where Raheem exited the car. There was a man standing outside who Hollie did not know, and this person got in the car with Raheem. The man first talked to Terrence, and then he and Raheem engaged in conversation. The man said "I'll be right back," and then the police came and arrested them. Hollie admitted she had purchased the marijuana found in her pocketbook that day for $150, maintaining it was for her personal use and explaining she had been addicted to marijuana and it was more cost efficient to purchase that amount. She denied that Raheem ever called her and...

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