State v. Reese, No. 3790.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtANDERSON, J.
Citation597 S.E.2d 169,359 S.C. 260
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Willie Earl REESE, Jr., Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 3790.
Decision Date03 May 2004

359 S.C. 260
597 S.E.2d 169

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Willie Earl REESE, Jr., Appellant

No. 3790.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard April 7, 2004.

Decided May 3, 2004.

Rehearing Denied June 25, 2004.


359 S.C. 263
Jack B. Swerling, of Columbia, for Appellant

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Senior Assistant Attorney General William Edgar Salter, III, and Solicitor Warren Blair Giese, all of Columbia, for Respondent.

ANDERSON, J.:

Appellant Willie Earl Reese, Jr. was indicted and charged with the murder of his wife Teresa. Following a jury trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to thirty-five years in prison. He now appeals, asserting the trial court erred in the admission of hearsay testimony, the admission of photographs of the victim's body and autopsy, denying certain requested jury charges, and failing to grant a mistrial based on the Solicitor's closing arguments. We reverse and remand.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Following her marriage to Reese in January 1999, Teresa Joyner moved out of the marital house and returned to her parents' home on two occasions, the first in January 2001 and again in April of the same year. Late in the evening during her second stay away from the marital home, as Teresa stood

359 S.C. 264
on the sidewalk in front of her parents' house, Reese shot Teresa in the head, killing her

During the evening leading up to the fatal shooting, Teresa had been playing softball with her neighbor and cousin, Edith McKenzie. After the game, the two went to a club. Throughout the evening, while Teresa was with Edith, Teresa's mother received repeated telephone calls from Reese inquiring about Teresa's whereabouts and asking that she call him when she returned home. Each time he called, Teresa's mother assured Reese that she would tell her daughter he had called.

Edith testified that after leaving the club with Teresa around 1:30 a.m., she noticed Reese's car parked at a stop sign as she pulled into Sandstone Lane. Pulling alongside his car, Teresa spoke briefly with Reese, after which he turned his car around and followed Teresa to her parents' house. Standing in front of her parents' house, Teresa assured Edith that everything was okay, gave her a hug, and told her that she would see her tomorrow. Edith then departed, leaving Teresa and Reese standing on the sidewalk facing each other.

Edith drove to her own home two houses away, and once inside, called to check on Teresa. Teresa's mother answered the phone, and Edith asked if Teresa had come inside. According to Edith's testimony, when Teresa's mother went outside to check, she began screaming. Edith then drove back to where she had left Teresa and found her body on the sidewalk.

The following day, using his father as an intermediary, Reese contacted the police and informed them he wanted to turn himself in. Deputy Thomas Reese, the officer who took Reese into custody, testified that Reese was upset, at times crying, and cooperative throughout the process. At the sheriff's office, Reese gave the following voluntary written statement:

I didn't go there to kill my wife. I went to talk to her. When she pulled up she said to follow her to the house, so I did. We were right there on the sidewalk talking. I said hello to [Edith] and she drove home. We talked for a few minutes. I was upset and crying. I pulled the gun out and told her that I was going to kill myself. She was trying to tell me not to kill myself. I kept asking, "Why does it got
359 S.C. 265
to be like this, baby?" I was moving the gun back and forth as a reaction. I don't know why the gun went off. I thought both safeties were on. I just wanted to see how she would react when I told her I was going to kill myself. I didn't mean to shoot her.
When the gun went off I put my hands on my head. I panicked. I went to my car and put the gun to my head. I decided to call my dad. He talked me out of killing myself. I went to my aunt's house and parked the car. I walked to my dad's house. He told me to please put the gun down. I ended up putting the gun in the tire in the boat in the backyard where I told you all it was and it's the same one you recovered. My sister had called Tasha to bring the kids over because I was thinking about killing myself. My dad calmed me down and rode me around. Then I turned myself in over at Deputy Reese's house where you picked me up.

At trial, three witnesses testified that Teresa had moved out because of marital difficulties she was having with Reese. On each occasion, counsel for Reese objected that the portion of the testimony relating to why she moved out was hearsay because they "could only know that through hearsay." The objections were overruled. Over Reese's objection, four of the State's witnesses testified that during the week prior to her shooting, Teresa had told them that she was afraid for her life. Over objection, the State admitted into evidence Exhibit 13, a photograph of Teresa's body at the scene, and Exhibit 19, an autopsy photo.

At the close of the State's evidence, counsel for Reese requested that the jury be instructed on the law of involuntary manslaughter and accident. The State objected, arguing that the felony of pointing and presenting a firearm was involved, thereby leaving Reese ineligible for jury instructions on involuntary manslaughter and accident. Whether or not the felony was implicated, counsel for Reese responded, the evidence did not necessarily establish the elements of the crime and "the jury could conclude that he was not pointing or presenting." The trial court sustained the State's objection, ruling that Reese was not entitled to involuntary manslaughter and accident charges.

359 S.C. 266
At the beginning of his closing argument, the Solicitor noted the presence of counsel for Reese and explained his role as an advocate. He then asked the jury, "Who speaks for Teresa Reese? In this system of justice that we have in this type of case who speaks for Teresa Reese? That is the question that has been asked since April 29th, I submit to you, of this year, since the day she died." The Solicitor reiterated the question, "Madam Forelady and Gentlemen, the question is: Who speaks for Teresa Reese? And I submit to that that question can be answered and will be answered today." The Solicitor argued
After you have seen all of the evidence — you notice I didn't answer the question before I went over the evidence with you. I have now gone over all of the evidence with you. And this is argument. And you have seen all of the evidence of malice that the State submits to you we have proven. So now I ask you, now that all the evidence is in upon my argument, who speaks for Teresa Reese? You do, Madam Forelady and Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury.

The Solicitor then concluded, "You can speak for her with your verdict. Because the truth is that she was murdered. The facts are there and you're going to hear the law. And so you, the State submits, will speak for her with your verdict, with your verdict."

Counsel for Reese twice objected to the Solicitor's closing argument and moved for a mistrial. The trial judge denied Reese's motion, explaining, "All right, sir. It may be close, but I'll overrule your motion Mr. Swerling." When counsel for Reese requested a curative instruction, the trial judge responded, "I've already ruled. I overruled his objection. I can't very well give a curative instruction if I were to believe that your final argument was beyond the bounds of what is allowed by law."

LAW/ANALYSIS

I. SOLICITOR'S CLOSING ARGUMENT

The following colloquy occurred during the Solicitor's closing argument:

MR. GASSER: Who speaks for Teresa Reese? In this system of justice that we have in this type of case, who
359 S.C. 267
speaks for Teresa Reese? That is the question that has been asked since April the 29th, I submit to you, of this year, since the day she died.
From the time that Willie Earl Reese was arrested, the time that he initially appeared in court, through the Grand Jury proceedings, when he was placed on the trial docket, when his case was called on Monday, when you jurors with your fellow jurors assembled downstairs before Judge Manning, during the process of you being selected for this case, from opening statements of Ms. Campbell and Mr. Swerling through the presentation of the testimony and the submission of evidence, through the closing remarks of Ms. Campbell and Mr. Swerling and as I stand before you, Madam Forelady and Ladies and Gentlemen, the question is: Who speaks for Teresa Reese? And I submit to you that that question can be answered and will be answered today.
....
Ms. Campbell told you, the last line of her opening statement Ms. Campbell told you that this case is about holding Willie Reese, Jr. responsible for the choices he made on April the 29th. So I ask you again: Who speaks for Teresa Reese?
MR. SWERLING: Judge, I have to object. I don't like to do it, but I have to object to this line of argument. I don't think it's proper and I'd like to make a motion on it. I can either do it after Mr. Gasser is done.
THE COURT: Yes, sir.
MR. SWERLING: But it is closing argument. But I object to this line of argument.
THE COURT: All right, sir.
MR. SWERLING: I have a motion.
THE COURT: Overruled. Go ahead.
MR. GASSER: Thank you, Your Honor. After you have seen all of the evidence — you notice I didn't answer that question before I went over the evidence with you. I have now gone over all of the evidence with you. And this is argument. And you have seen all of the evidence of malice that the State submits to you we have proven. So now I ask you, now that all the evidence is in upon my argument,
359 S.C. 268
who speaks for Teresa Reese? You do, Madam Forelady and Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury.
MR. SWERLING: Again, Your Honor, for the same reasons.
MR. GASSER: You do.
...

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10 practice notes
  • State v. Rice, No. 4300.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 5, 2007
    ...any argument that importunes the jurors to places themselves in the victim's shoes is disallowed Golden Rule Argument. State v. Reese, 359 S.C. 260, 271, 597 S.E.2d 169, 175 (Ct.App.2004), rev'd on other grounds by 370 S.C. at 38, 633 S.E.2d at Prosecutors are bound to rules of fairness in ......
  • State v. Staten, No. 3955.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 7, 2005
    ...reversal, a trial judges refusal to give a requested jury charge must be both erroneous and prejudicial to the defendant. State v. Reese, 359 S.C. 260, 597 S.E.2d 169 (Ct.App.2004). "Failure to give requested jury instructions is not prejudicial error where the instructions given afford the......
  • State v. Patterson, No. 4069.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 9, 2006
    ...reversal, a trial court's refusal to give a requested jury charge must be both erroneous and prejudicial to the defendant. State v. Reese, 359 S.C. 260, 273, 597 S.E.2d 169, 176 (Ct.App.2004). "Failure to give requested jury instructions is not prejudicial error where the instructions given......
  • State v. Staten, 2005-UP-163
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 7, 2005
    ...reversal, a trial judge's refusal to give a requested jury charge must be both erroneous and prejudicial to the defendant. State v. Reese, 359 S.C. 260, 597 S.E.2d 169 (Ct. App. 2004). Failure to give requested jury instructions is not prejudicial error where the instructions given afford t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
10 cases
  • State v. Rice, No. 4300.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • October 5, 2007
    ...any argument that importunes the jurors to places themselves in the victim's shoes is disallowed Golden Rule Argument. State v. Reese, 359 S.C. 260, 271, 597 S.E.2d 169, 175 (Ct.App.2004), rev'd on other grounds by 370 S.C. at 38, 633 S.E.2d at Prosecutors are bound to rules of fairness in ......
  • State v. Staten, No. 3955.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 7, 2005
    ...reversal, a trial judges refusal to give a requested jury charge must be both erroneous and prejudicial to the defendant. State v. Reese, 359 S.C. 260, 597 S.E.2d 169 (Ct.App.2004). "Failure to give requested jury instructions is not prejudicial error where the instructions given afford the......
  • State v. Patterson, No. 4069.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 9, 2006
    ...reversal, a trial court's refusal to give a requested jury charge must be both erroneous and prejudicial to the defendant. State v. Reese, 359 S.C. 260, 273, 597 S.E.2d 169, 176 (Ct.App.2004). "Failure to give requested jury instructions is not prejudicial error where the instructions given......
  • State v. Staten, 2005-UP-163
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 7, 2005
    ...reversal, a trial judge's refusal to give a requested jury charge must be both erroneous and prejudicial to the defendant. State v. Reese, 359 S.C. 260, 597 S.E.2d 169 (Ct. App. 2004). Failure to give requested jury instructions is not prejudicial error where the instructions given afford t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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