State v. Spann, No. 21992

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtHARWELL; LEWIS
Citation279 S.C. 399,308 S.E.2d 518
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Sterling Barnett SPANN, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 21992
Decision Date13 October 1983

Page 518

308 S.E.2d 518
279 S.C. 399
The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Sterling Barnett SPANN, Appellant.
No. 21992.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
Oct. 13, 1983.

Page 519

[279 S.C. 401] David I. Bruck, and Asst. Appellate Defender Elizabeth C. Fullwood, of S.C. Com'n of Appellate Defense, Columbia, for appellant.

Atty. Gen. T. Travis Medlock and Retired Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod, Asst. Atty. Gen. Harold M. Coombs, Jr., and Staff Atty. Carlisle Roberts, Jr., Columbia, and Sol. William L. Ferguson, York, for respondent.

HARWELL, Justice:

A jury in York County convicted appellant Sterling Barnette Spann of burglary, robbery, criminal sexual conduct in the first degree, and murder. The jury recommended a death sentence. This case consolidates Spann's direct appeal and mandatory review of the death sentence.

On September 14, 1981, an assailant entered the Clover home of Mrs. Melva Harper Neil and stole certain personal property, committed a sexual battery on the 82 year old widow, and killed her. Appellant was arrested and pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Appellant asserts that several errors justify reversal of the jury's finding of guilt and its recommendation of the death penalty. We disagree and affirm.

Appellant first asserts error in the voir dire process. Prior to trial, he moved to prohibit questioning of members of the jury venire concerning their beliefs about capital punishment. His position was that this inquiry would not result in a jury representing a cross-section of the community. This court resolved that issue contrary to the appellant's position in State v. Goolsby, 275 S.C. 110, 268 S.E.2d 31 (1980), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 1037, 101 S.Ct. 616, 66 L.Ed.2d 500 (1980). When a potential juror is prevented from rendering an impartial decision or voting for the death penalty, the trial court can exclude him because of his

Page 520

inability to carry out his duty under the law. State v. Hyman, 276 S.C. 559, 281 S.E.2d 209 (1981), cert. denied, 458 U.S. 1122, 102 S.Ct. 3510, 73 L.Ed.2d 1384 (1982).

[279 S.C. 402] Appellant next asserts that the lower court erred in disqualifying certain prospective jurors because their responses to questions about the death penalty were ambiguous. Considering the entire colloquy with these veniremen, we find that the court properly disqualified them. State v. Butler, 277 S.C. 452, 290 S.E.2d 1 (1982), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 103 S.Ct. 242, 74 L.Ed.2d 191 (1982). The alleged error in the trial judge's qualification of certain other jurors also has no merit. A juror's competence is within the trial judge's sole discretion and is not reviewable on appeal unless wholly unsupported by the evidence. S.C.Code § 14-7-1020 (1976); State v. Thompson, 278 S.C. 1, 292 S.E.2d 581 (1982); State v. Hyman, supra.

Appellant excepts to the lower court's refusal to exclude another juror on grounds that he had formed an opinion about the case prior to trial. The trial court did not, however, abuse its discretion because the juror stated, in effect, that he could be fair and impartial. State v. Franklin, 267 S.C. 240, 226 S.E.2d 896 (1976).

Appellant further argues that the trial judge should have directed a verdict on the crime of burglary because the state failed to prove a breaking. The trial court is concerned with the existence of evidence rather than its weight in ruling on a motion for a directed verdict. State v. Hyman, supra. We have reviewed the testimony and it is more than adequate to require the submission of this case to the jury. State v. Kennedy, 272 S.C. 231, 250 S.E.2d 338 (1978). Opening a window constitutes a breaking. State v. Clamp, 225 S.C. 89, 99, 80 S.E.2d 918, 922 (1954). The smudged palmprints pointing inward and blood of his type found on the windowsill are evidence from which the jury could infer that the appellant climbed into the house through a closed window. Also, chipped paint was found under the...

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31 practice notes
  • State v. Cherry, No. 3406.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 13 Noviembre 2001
    ...is concerned with the existence of evidence rather than its weight in ruling on a motion for a directed verdict. E.g., State v. Spann, 279 S.C. 399, 308 S.E.2d 518 (1983). There is a marked distinction, however, between the jury's "weighing of the evidence" and a trial court's establishing ......
  • State v. Powers, No. 24804.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • 8 Junio 1998
    ...286 S.C. 78, 332 S.E.2d 765 (1985), vacated on other grounds, 476 U.S. 1102, 106 S.Ct. 1943, 90 L.Ed.2d 353 (1986); State v. Spann, 279 S.C. 399, 308 S.E.2d 518 331 S.C. 44 Although we have not previously addressed this issue, other courts have mandated a defendant divulge his witness list ......
  • State v. Johnson, No. 23489
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 16 Mayo 1989
    ...Similar instructions have been upheld by this Court. See, e.g., Singletary v. State, 281 S.C. 444, 316 S.E.2d 369 (1984); State v. Spann, 279 S.C. 399, 308 S.E.2d 518 (1983) cert. denied, 466 U.S. 947, 104 S.Ct. 2146, 80 L.Ed.2d 533 (1984); State v. Woomer, 278 S.C. 468, 299 S.E.2d 317 (198......
  • State v. Kornahrens, No. 22618
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 16 Septiembre 1986
    ...with his oath and his duty under the law. Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 105 S.Ct. 844, 83 L.Ed.2d 341 (1985); State v. Spann, 279 S.C. 399, 308 S.E.2d 518 (1983). A defendant's right to a jury selected from a representative cross-section of the community is not compromised by the exclus......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
31 cases
  • State v. Cherry, No. 3406.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 13 Noviembre 2001
    ...is concerned with the existence of evidence rather than its weight in ruling on a motion for a directed verdict. E.g., State v. Spann, 279 S.C. 399, 308 S.E.2d 518 (1983). There is a marked distinction, however, between the jury's "weighing of the evidence" and a trial court's establishing ......
  • State v. Powers, No. 24804.
    • United States
    • South Carolina Supreme Court
    • 8 Junio 1998
    ...286 S.C. 78, 332 S.E.2d 765 (1985), vacated on other grounds, 476 U.S. 1102, 106 S.Ct. 1943, 90 L.Ed.2d 353 (1986); State v. Spann, 279 S.C. 399, 308 S.E.2d 518 331 S.C. 44 Although we have not previously addressed this issue, other courts have mandated a defendant divulge his witness list ......
  • State v. Johnson, No. 23489
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 16 Mayo 1989
    ...Similar instructions have been upheld by this Court. See, e.g., Singletary v. State, 281 S.C. 444, 316 S.E.2d 369 (1984); State v. Spann, 279 S.C. 399, 308 S.E.2d 518 (1983) cert. denied, 466 U.S. 947, 104 S.Ct. 2146, 80 L.Ed.2d 533 (1984); State v. Woomer, 278 S.C. 468, 299 S.E.2d 317 (198......
  • State v. Kornahrens, No. 22618
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 16 Septiembre 1986
    ...with his oath and his duty under the law. Wainwright v. Witt, 469 U.S. 412, 105 S.Ct. 844, 83 L.Ed.2d 341 (1985); State v. Spann, 279 S.C. 399, 308 S.E.2d 518 (1983). A defendant's right to a jury selected from a representative cross-section of the community is not compromised by the exclus......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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