State v. Robinson

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtWILLIAMS
PartiesThe State, Respondent, v. Jomar Antavis Robinson, Appellant.
Decision Date15 February 2012

The State, Respondent,
Jomar Antavis Robinson, Appellant.


Heard: October 3, 2011
Filed: February 15, 2012

Appeal From York County
Lee S. Alford, Circuit Court Judge


Appellate Defender Elizabeth Franklin-Best, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, and Senior Attorney General Harold M. Coombs, and Solicitor Kevin Brackett, all of Columbia, for Respondent.

WILLIAMS, J.: Jomar Antavis Robinson (Robinson) was convicted of possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute within one-half mile of a public park, unlawful carrying of a pistol, possession of marijuana, and resisting arrest. The circuit court sentenced Robinson to life imprisonment. Robinson appeals, arguing the circuit court erred in (1) denying Robinson's motion to suppress drugs found as a result of an illegal search and seizure; and (2) allowing the State to qualify the Commander of the Drug Enforcement Unit as an expert witness. We affirm.


On March 20, 2010, Sergeant Rayford Louis Ervin, Jr. (Ervin) with the York County Drug Enforcement Unit (the Drug Enforcement Unit) conducted surveillance of the Hall Street Apartments in response to numerous anonymous complaints of criminal activity in the area. Ervin stated he observed conduct consistent with drug transactions and called for back-up. Lieutenant James M. Ligon (Ligon) and Officer Brian Schettler (Schettler) with the Drug Enforcement Unit responded. Upon their arrival, Ervin informed the officers he observed an individual, wearing a black leather jacket, meeting vehicles that pulled into the parking lot, going up to the vehicles' windows for a short time, and then returning to the porch of an apartment.

Ligon and Schettler approached the porch and smelled a strong odor of marijuana. Of the five individuals on the porch, two men were wearing black jackets matching Ervin's description. Ligon and Schettler asked the men for their identification. Ligon noticed one of the individuals, later identified as Robinson, had a pistol hanging out of the right pocket of his jacket. Ligon told the two individuals he could smell marijuana and see Robinson's pistol, and he was going to conduct a Terry1 search. As Robinson began to retreat, both Ligon and Robinson reached for Robinson's pistol, and a fight between Ligon and Robinson ensued. During the struggle, Robinson's jacket fell to the ground and Robinson fled the scene. Ligon pursued him, and after an altercation, Ligon placed Robinson in handcuffs. Once Robinson was in custody, Schettler searched the inside of Robinson's jacket and found the pistol, a bag containing marijuana, and a bag containing crack cocaine.

A York County grand jury indicted Robinson for possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute within one-half mile of a public park, unlawful carrying of a pistol, possession of marijuana, and resisting arrest.

Robinson moved in limine to suppress the pistol, marijuana, and crack cocaine found in Robinson's pocket, arguing the contents of his jacket were the result of an illegal search. The circuit court denied this motion finding the search did not violate Robinson's Fourth Amendment rights; Robinson did not have an expectation of privacy on the porch; and the officers had reasonable suspicion to investigate. When the State introduced the pistol and crack cocaine into evidence during trial, Robinson timely objected. However, despite his motion in limine to suppress the marijuana, Robinson offered the bag of marijuana into evidence during the cross-examination of one of the State's witnesses as a trial strategy.2

The State called Commander Marvin Brown (Commander Brown) of the Drug Enforcement Unit as a witness. The State offered Commander Brown as an expert in "how crack cocaine is packaged, sold, the going price, the typical intoxicating dose, and the different habits between the typical addict, the user, and the typical drug dealer." Robinson objected, arguing Commander Brown was not qualified as an expert witness under Rule 702 of the South Carolina Rules of Evidence. After voir dire of Commander Brown, the circuit court concluded he was qualified to testify as an expert.

Following the State's case-in-chief, Robinson moved for a directed verdict. In addition, Robinson renewed his motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the search, but he specifically conceded the marijuana was admissible based on his introduction of the marijuana during trial. The court denied Robinson's motions. Robinson was convicted of all charges and was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment pursuant to section 17-25-45 of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2010).3 This appeal followed.


In criminal cases, the appellate court reviews errors of law only. State v. Butler, 353 S.C. 383, 388, 577 S.E.2d 498, 500 (Ct. App. 2003). The appellate court is bound by the circuit court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. State v. Wilson, 345 S.C. 1, 6, 545 S.E.2d 827, 829 (2001).


I. Motion to Suppress

Robinson argues the marijuana and cocaine were improperly admitted at trial because they were obtained in an unlawful manner. We disagree.

a. Marijuana

Robinson introduced the marijuana into evidence during his cross-examination of Ligon; therefore, he cannot now complain of its admission on appeal. See State v. Johnson, 298 S.C. 496, 498, 381 S.E.2d 732, 733 (1989) (holding a defendant who expressly consented to the admission of evidence at trial waived any right to raise the issue of admissibility on appeal); State v. O'Neal, 210 S.C. 305, 312, 42 S.E.2d 523, 526 (1947) (holding a defendant may not complain of admission of evidence when he introduced the same kind of evidence on cross-examination); State v. Beam, 336 S.C. 45, 52, 518 S.E.2d 297, 301 (Ct. App. 1999) (holding a defendant cannot complain about the admission of evidence on appeal when he opened the door to the introduction of that evidence).

b. Crack Cocaine

Robinson argues the circuit court erred in admitting the crack cocaine at trial when (1) he had a reasonable expectation of privacy on the porch; and (2) Ligon and Schettler entered without a warrant and in the absence of exigent circumstances. We disagree and address each argument in turn.

i. Expectation of Privacy

Robinson contends the search was in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights...

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