State v. Rumsey, 20263

Decision Date21 July 1976
Docket NumberNo. 20263,20263
Citation226 S.E.2d 894,267 S.C. 236
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Floyd William RUMSEY, Appellant.
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court

William I. Bouton, Greenville, for appellant.

Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod and Asst. Attys. Gen., Joseph R. Barker and Brian P. Gibbes, Columbia, and Solicitor William W. Wilkins, Greenville, for respondent.


Appellant was convicted of murder while committing an armed robbery and sentenced to death pursuant to Section 16--52, 1962 South Carolina Code of Laws as amended. He appeals arising numerous grounds for a new trial.

Oral argument was had at the June term of this Court. One of the grounds urged for reversal was the unconstitutionality of the death penalty.

Prior to a final decision by this Court on the merits of the appeal, the United States Supreme Court decisions of July 2, 1976 with respect to the mandatory death penalty statutes of North Carolina and Louisiana, viz., Woodson v. North Carolina, --- U.S. ---, 96 S.Ct. 2978, 49 L.Ed.2d ---, 19 Cr.L. 3287 (1976); and Roberts v. Louisiana, --- U.S. ---, 96 S.Ct. 3001, 49 L.Ed.2d ---, 19 Cr.L. 3301 (1976), made it clear to us that mandatory death sentences in specified circumstances which leave neither judge nor jury discretion to impose a lesser sentence violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Since Section 16--52 imposes a mandatory death penalty upon a finding of murder committed in specified circumstances, this Court requested counsel for Appellant to re-argue the constitutionality of Section 16--52 in light of the aforementioned United States Supreme Court decisions.

On re-argument, counsel for Appellant abandoned all exceptions seeking a new trial and limited relief sought to a remand to the lower court for imposition of a life sentence. In essence, Appellant now seeks affirmance of his conviction but vacation of his death sentence. (Both prior to and at trial, Appellant sought to plead guilty to common-law murder which carries a life sentence.)

Notwithstanding Appellant's abandonment at re-argument of issues raised pertaining to a new trial, we reviewed the record for all possible error. We find no merit in any ground raised with the exception of the constitutionality of the mandatory death penalty provisions of Section 16--52, re-argued in light of Woodson, supra.

The United States Supreme Court in Woodson found North Carolina's death penalty statute (similar to ours) unconstitutional on three grounds. First, it is proscribed by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment's requirement that the State's power to punish be exercised within the limits of civilized standards. Woodson, --- U.S. ---, 96 S.Ct. 2978, 49 L.Ed.2d ---, 19 Cr.L. 3289 (1976). The Court concluded that automatic death penalties have historically been rejected by juries and legislatures and that their imposition today departs unacceptably from contemporary, societal standards regarding the imposition of death. The Court ascribed the enactment of mandatory death penalties after Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238, 92 S.Ct. 2726, 33 L.Ed.2d 346 (1976) to attempts by the States to retain constitutional death penalties rather than to a reversal of societal values towards acceptance of mandatory death sentencing. (The amendment of South Carolina's death penalty statute in 1974 imposing mandatory death sentences for specified offenses resulted from our legislature's efforts to cure the constitutional defect of the jury's unbridled discretion to impose the death penalty condemned in Furman.)

Secondly, the Court found that the mandatory death penalty contains the same basic, underlying defect of unguided, unchecked jury discretion condemned in Furman. Woodson, --- U.S. ---, 96 S.Ct. 2978, 49 L.Ed.2d ---, 19...

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22 cases
  • State v. Lindquist
    • United States
    • Idaho Supreme Court
    • January 11, 1979
    ...dismissed, 435 U.S. 920, 98 S.Ct. 1480, 55 L.Ed.2d 513 (1978); State v. Rondeau, 89 N.M. 408, 553 P.2d 688 (1976); State v. Rumsey, 267 S.C. 236, 226 S.E.2d 894 (1976); Collins v. State, 550 S.W.2d 643 (Tenn.) Cert. denied sub nom. Morgan v. Tennessee, 434 U.S. 905, 98 S.Ct. 303, 54 L.Ed.2d......
  • Jackson v. State
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • October 5, 1976
    ...death penalty provided for in the statute cannot be legally imposed, and do as the Supreme Court of South Carolina did in State v. Rumsey, 226 S.E.2d 894 (S.C.1976) and uphold appellant's conviction of murder and remand the case for the imposition of a life sentence. This is the procedure w......
  • Harris v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Supreme Court
    • September 9, 1977
    ...318) should be imposed. See Rockwell v. Superior Court, 18 Cal.3d 420, 134 Cal.Rptr. 650, 556 P.2d 1101 (1976); State v. Rumsey, 267 S.C. 236, 226 S.E.2d 894 (1976). The severance of the death penalty from section 318 left life imprisonment as the only penalty for first degree murder in tha......
  • State v. Pendergrass
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • December 12, 1977
    ...49 L.Ed.2d 929 (1976); Roberts v. Louisiana, 428 U.S. 325, 96 S.Ct. 3001, 49 L.Ed.2d 974 (1976), it occurred prior to State v. Rumsey, 267 S.C. 236, 226 S.E.2d 894 (1976), in which this Court found the South Carolina statute to be constitutionally defective. We cannot say the trial judge er......
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