State v. Sloan, No. 21817

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtNESS; LEWIS
Citation278 S.C. 435,298 S.E.2d 92
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Michael A. Godwin SLOAN, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 21817
Decision Date06 December 1982

Page 92

298 S.E.2d 92
278 S.C. 435
The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Michael A. Godwin SLOAN, Appellant.
No. 21817.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Dec. 6, 1982.

Page 93

[278 S.C. 437] David I. Bruck, of S.C. Commission of Appellate Defense, Columbia, and Daniel A. Beck, James E. Barfield and R. Knox McMahon, Lexington, for appellant.

Atty. Gen., Daniel R. McLeod, Senior Asst. Atty. Gen., Brian P. Gibbes and Asst. Atty. Gen., Martha L. McElveen, Columbia, and Sol. Donald V. Myers, Lexington, for respondent.

NESS, Justice:

Appellant Michael A. Godwin Sloan was convicted of murder and first degree criminal sexual assault and sentenced to death. We conclude the numerous errors committed cumulatively denied appellant a fair trial. We reverse the conviction, vacate the sentence and remand for a new trial.

Appellant argues several improprieties in the solicitor's guilt phase argument. First, he contends the solicitor's comment that appellant's attorneys had not overtly asserted his innocence injected a constitutionally intolerable[278 S.C. 438] element of unreliability into the fact-finding process.

"... [Appellant's attorney said] someone else could have done it and probably was the one who murdered Miss Royem other than the defendant. Did he tell you that [appellant] didn't do it? He didn't tell you that."

Contrary to the inference the jury was asked to draw, an attorney has an ethical responsibility to refrain from expressing to the jury his personal beliefs about the merits of a case. DR 7-106(C)(4), Code of Professional Responsibility. The solicitor's remark invited the jury to speculate concerning the attorney's belief in his client's innocence, and was improper. State v. Woomer, 276 S.C. 258, 284 S.E.2d 357 (1981); see also Greenberg v. U.S., 280 F.2d 472 (1st Cir.1960).

The solicitor also argued during the guilt phase that if appellant was not convicted, the murder would forever remain unsolved.

"... If you think the truth is that he is not guilty, then let [the victim] rest. And forever be unsolved."

This remark also invited the jury to speculate about a matter irrelevant to appellant's guilt (i.e., whether the murder would be solved) and diverted the jury from its duty to decide guilt or innocence solely on the evidence presented. This appeal for a verdict based on fear and speculation constituted an arbitrary factor affecting appellant's guilt, in violation of S.C.Code Ann. § 16-3-25(C)(1) and the Eighth Amendment.

Page 94

Cf. State v. Butler, S.C., 290 S.E.2d 420 (1982).

Next, appellant asserts the trial court erred in allowing the State to impeach its own witness during the guilt phase. The State's case against appellant was based on two key pieces of evidence, one of which was a broken Timex watch found at the crime scene. The State called as a witness appellant's father, Charles Godwin, to establish the watch belonged to appellant. Mr. Godwin had identified the watch as his son's more than a year prior to trial; however, the State learned during jury selection that Mr. Godwin no longer believed the watch to be his son's.

Mr. Godwin testified on direct examination for the State that he had earlier identified the watch found at the scene, [278 S.C. 439] that at the time he identified it he truly believed it to be his son's, but that he had subsequently discovered his son's watch in a desk drawer at home. The State then questioned Mr. Godwin in an attempt to show that his testimony concerning the discovery of his son's watch was recently fabricated....

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24 practice notes
  • Brown v. State, No. 4297.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 5 Octubre 2007
    ...him is an unconstitutional comment on his post-arrest silence. State v. Middleton, 288 S.C. 21, 339 S.E.2d 692 (1986). State v. Sloan, 278 S.C. 435, 298 S.E.2d 92 Id. at 394-95, 350 S.E.2d at 924. In State v. Gray, 304 S.C. 482, 405 S.E.2d 420 (Ct.App.1991), this court found a defendant had......
  • People of The State of Ill. v. BANKS, No. 103933.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 24 Mayo 2010
    ...is invited to speculate about irrelevant matters upon which a death sentence may be based, § 16-3-25(C)(1) is violated. State v. Sloan, 278 S.C. 435, 298 S.E.2d 92 (1982). Accordingly, we reverse appellant's death sentence and remand for resentencing.” Burkhart, 371 S.C. at 488-89, 640 S.E.......
  • People v. Dion Banks, Docket No. 103933 (Ill. 2/19/2010), Docket No. 103933.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 19 Febrero 2010
    ...is invited to speculate about irrelevant matters upon which a death sentence may be based, §16-3-25(C)(1) is violated. State v. Sloan, 278 S.C. 435, 298 S.E.2d 92 (1982). Accordingly, we reverse appellant's death sentence and remand for resentencing." Burkhart, 371 S.C. at 488-89, 640 ......
  • People v. Dion Banks, Docket No. 103933 (Ill. 2/19/2010), Docket No. 103933.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 19 Febrero 2010
    ...is invited to speculate about irrelevant matters upon which a death sentence may be based, §16-3-25(C)(1) is violated. State v. Sloan, 278 S.C. 435, 298 S.E.2d 92 (1982). Accordingly, we reverse appellant's death sentence and remand for resentencing." Burkhart, 371 S.C. at 488-89, 640 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • Brown v. State, No. 4297.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 5 Octubre 2007
    ...him is an unconstitutional comment on his post-arrest silence. State v. Middleton, 288 S.C. 21, 339 S.E.2d 692 (1986). State v. Sloan, 278 S.C. 435, 298 S.E.2d 92 Id. at 394-95, 350 S.E.2d at 924. In State v. Gray, 304 S.C. 482, 405 S.E.2d 420 (Ct.App.1991), this court found a defendant had......
  • People of The State of Ill. v. BANKS, No. 103933.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 24 Mayo 2010
    ...is invited to speculate about irrelevant matters upon which a death sentence may be based, § 16-3-25(C)(1) is violated. State v. Sloan, 278 S.C. 435, 298 S.E.2d 92 (1982). Accordingly, we reverse appellant's death sentence and remand for resentencing.” Burkhart, 371 S.C. at 488-89, 640 S.E.......
  • People v. Dion Banks, Docket No. 103933 (Ill. 2/19/2010), Docket No. 103933.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 19 Febrero 2010
    ...is invited to speculate about irrelevant matters upon which a death sentence may be based, §16-3-25(C)(1) is violated. State v. Sloan, 278 S.C. 435, 298 S.E.2d 92 (1982). Accordingly, we reverse appellant's death sentence and remand for resentencing." Burkhart, 371 S.C. at 488-89, 640 ......
  • People v. Dion Banks, Docket No. 103933 (Ill. 2/19/2010), Docket No. 103933.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Illinois
    • 19 Febrero 2010
    ...is invited to speculate about irrelevant matters upon which a death sentence may be based, §16-3-25(C)(1) is violated. State v. Sloan, 278 S.C. 435, 298 S.E.2d 92 (1982). Accordingly, we reverse appellant's death sentence and remand for resentencing." Burkhart, 371 S.C. at 488-89, 640 ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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