State v. Shafer

Citation531 S.E.2d 524,340 S.C. 291
Decision Date08 May 2000
Docket NumberNo. 25120.,25120.
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
PartiesSTATE of South Carolina, Respondent, v. Wesley Aaron SHAFER, Jr., Appellant.

David I. Bruck, of Columbia, for appellant.

Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Attorney General S. Creighton Waters, of Columbia; and Solicitor Thomas E. Pope, of York, for respondent.

BURNETT, Justice:

Appellant admitted he shot and killed Ray Broome while attempting to rob the convenience store where Broome was working. Appellant maintained the killing was without malice.1 A jury convicted appellant of murder, attempted armed robbery, and conspiracy. He was sentenced to death for murder and consecutive terms of twenty years' imprisonment and five years' imprisonment, respectively, for attemptedarmed robbery and conspiracy.2 Appellant appeals.


Around 11:30 p.m. on April 12, 1997, appellant and Justin Porter drove to the Hot Spot, a convenience store, in Porter's truck. Appellant and Porter entered the store. When they returned to the truck, Porter, the driver, spun the back tires of the vehicle and appellant, using his father's gun and bullets he purchased earlier, fired four or five shots from the passenger window as they drove away.

At approximately 1:00 a.m., appellant, Porter, and Adam Mullinax returned to the Hot Spot. Witnesses left the Hot Spot because they suspected trouble.

Appellant, Porter, and Mullinax entered the Hot Spot. Mullinax went into the bathroom then returned to the truck. Appellant and Porter also went into the store, then stood outside the Hot Spot for a few minutes. While Broome was away from the cash register, Porter entered the Hot Spot. He tried to open the cash register but was unsuccessful. He returned outside.

Porter and appellant entered the store again. Broome had returned to the register booth. Appellant went to the checkout counter and shot Broome from several feet away. Broome fell to the floor. Appellant walked to another side of the register, fumbled with the gun, leaned over the register counter, and shot Broome a second time.3 Appellant and Porter's attempt to open the cash register failed. Appellant and Porter left. There is no evidence appellant or Porter asked Broome for money before the shooting.

Three young women arrived as appellant and Porter fled the Hot Spot and jumped into the truck. One of the women ran into the store, found Broome on the floor, and telephoned for emergency services. When the police arrived, Broome was still breathing. He had been shot twice in the head.4 Broome died at the hospital.

Appellant wrapped Mullinax's shirt around the gun and initially hid it in the woods. He hid his own shirt and Porter's shirt elsewhere. Twelve hours after the shooting, appellant told an employee at another convenience store he was going to the park to shoot basketball. After his arrest, an investigator asked appellant had Broome done anything to cause appellant to shoot. Appellant responded: "No. We were sitting around in the woods talking about what we were going to do with him, and I'm the one that had the gun, and I guess I just snapped."

I. Did the trial court err by refusing to instruct the jury appellant was parole ineligible?
II. Did the trial judge err by granting the State's motion to prohibit both the prosecution and defense from referring to the Bible or using religious references during closing argument?
III. Did the trial judge err by refusing to allow appellant to reopen the record to present evidence on deterrence or, alternatively, for a curative instruction after the solicitor argued the general deterrent effect of the death penalty?

Appellant argues, for various reasons, the trial court erred by refusing to instruct the jury he was parole ineligible. We disagree.

After closing arguments, relying on Simmons v. South Carolina, 512 U.S. 154, 114 S.Ct. 2187, 129 L.Ed.2d 133 (1994), appellant requested the trial court instruct the jury he would be ineligible for parole. The trial court denied the request.

Thereafter, the trial judge instructed the jury "life imprisonment means until the death of the defendant." He later stated: "[i]n deciding whether to sentence the defendant to death or to life imprisonment, I remind you that death means just what it says, death. Life imprisonment means incarceration of the defendant until his death."

After three and one-half hours of deliberation, the jury returned with the following questions:

1. Is there any remote chance for someone convicted of murder to become eligible for parole?
2. Under what conditions would someone convicted for murder be eligible?

Regarding Question 1, appellant agreed the trial court should instruct the jury "life imprisonment means until the death of the offender" and requested the court read the portion of § 16-3-20(A) which explains no person sentenced to life imprisonment is eligible for parole or any other form of release or credits which would reduce a life sentence. Appellant stipulated Question 2 could not be answered. After the trial judge informed the parties of his intended response to the jury's questions, appellant requested the trial judge delete any reference to parole eligibility.6

The trial judge responded to the jury's questions as follows: Your consideration is restricted to what sentence to recommend. I will remind you that what you recommend is what I will impose as trial judge. Section 16-3-20 of our Code of Laws as applies to this case in the process we're in states that, `for the purposes of this section life imprisonment means until the death of the offender.' Parole eligibility or ineligibility is not for your consideration.

Appellant excepted stating, "we would renew our objection under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the State and Federal Constitutions." The trial judge noted the exception.


Appellant argues he was entitled to a charge on parole ineligibility after the solicitor placed his future dangerousness in issue. He contends Simmons mandates a parole ineligibility instruction and refusal to give the charge violated his right to due process. We disagree.

When the State places the defendant's future dangerousness at issue and the only available alternative sentence to the death penalty is life imprisonment without parole, due process entitles the defendant to inform the jury he is parole ineligible. Id.; State v. Williams, 321 S.C. 327, 468 S.E.2d 626 (1996). Due process is violated when the State "raise[s] the specter of [the defendant's] future dangerousness generally, but then thwart[s] all efforts by [the defendant] to demonstrate that, contrary to the prosecutor's intimations, he never would be released on parole and thus, in his view, would not pose a future danger to society." Simmons, 512 U.S. at 165,114 S.Ct. 2187 (1994) (plurality opinion).

Appellant was tried under the new sentencing scheme which became effective on January 1, 1996. S.C.Code Ann. § 16-3-20 (Supp.1998). Under the new sentencing scheme, a defendant can be sentenced to 1) death, 2) life without the possibility of parole, or 3) a mandatory minimum thirty year sentence. We recently held Simmons is inapplicable under the new sentencing scheme because life without the possibility of parole is not the only legally available sentence alternative to death. State v. Starnes, 340 S.C. 312, 531 S.E.2d 907 (2000).7 Accordingly, appellant's due process rights were not violated by the trial judge's refusal to instruct the jury appellant was parole ineligible.

Appellant argues Simmons mandates a charge on parole ineligibility when the State argues future dangerousness and the jury's sentencing recommendation is limited to death or life without the possibility of parole, even though some other sentence is available. We do not read Simmons so narrowly. By its own terms, Simmons requires the trial judge instruct the jury the defendant is parole ineligible only if no other sentence than death, other than life without the possibility of parole, is legally available to the defendant. Simmons, U.S. at 178 (O'Connor, J., concurring) ("[a]lthough the only alternative sentence to death under state law was life imprisonment without the possibility of parole...".) (emphasis added). This interpretation is supported by decisions from other jurisdictions. Ramdass v. Angelone, 187 F.3d 396 (4th Cir.1999)(Simmons is inapplicable if, at time of sentencing proceeding, defendant is parole eligible under state law; hence where judgment had yet to be entered for defendant's third murder conviction, defendant was parole eligible under "three strikes" law); United States v. Flores, 63 F.3d 1342 (5th Cir.1995),cert. denied, 519 U.S. 825, 117 S.Ct. 87, 136 L.Ed.2d 43 (1996) (because sentencing guidelines vest district court with discretion to adjust life sentence downward, life sentence without possibility of parole is not only legal sentence other than death which defendant might receive and, therefore Simmons is inapplicable); Allridge v. Scott, 41 F.3d 213 (5th Cir.1994),cert. denied, 514 U.S. 1108, 115 S.Ct. 1959, 131 L.Ed.2d 851 (1995) (Simmons applies where capital defendant is ineligible for parole as a matter of law; Simmons does not apply even if it is unlikely defendant would be paroled); People v. Simpson, 172 Ill.2d 117, 216 Ill.Dec. 671, 665 N.E.2d 1228,cert. denied, 519 U.S. 982, 117 S.Ct. 436, 136 L.Ed.2d 334 (1996) (Simmons inapplicable where capital defendant is statutorily eligible for a sentence less than natural life imprisonment); State v. McLaughlin, 341 N.C. 426, 462 S.E.2d 1 (1995),cert. denied, 516 U.S. 1133, 116 S.Ct. 956, 133 L.Ed.2d 879 (1996) (Simmons inapplicable where alternative to death is not life imprisonment without possibility of parole). At the time appellant's jury began its...

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    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • February 20, 2007
    ...railing of the victim's crib. 12. Though not relevant to my analysis, Ard was overruled on other grounds by State v. Shafer, 340 S.C. 291, 304 n. 12, 531 S.E.2d 524, 531 n. 12 (2000). Similarly, Pierce was overruled on other grounds by Torrence, 305 S.C. at 70 n. 13, 406 S.E.2d at 329 n. 5 ......
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2 books & journal articles
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