State v. Truesdale

Citation278 S.C. 368,296 S.E.2d 528
Decision Date19 October 1982
Docket NumberNo. 21799,21799
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Louis J. TRUESDALE, Jr., Appellant.

David I. Bruck and Assistant Appellate Defender Tara D. Shurling, of S.C. Commission of Appellate Defense, Columbia, for appellant.

Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod, Senior Asst. Atty. Gen. Brian P. Gibbes and State Atty. Carolyn M. Adams, Columbia, and Sol. John R. Justice, Chester, for respondent.


Appeal is taken from a sentence of death recommended by a jury and confirmed by the trial judge after appellant entered guilty pleas to indictments for murder, kidnapping and first degree criminal sexual conduct. We vacate the guilty plea and remand for a new trial.

This Court has recently held that section 16-3-20(B), Code of Laws of South Carolina, 1976 (Cum.Supp.1981), requires sentencing by the trial judge, not a jury, when jury trial has been waived or the defendant has entered a guilty plea, State v. Patterson, --- S.C. ---, 295 S.E.2d 264 (1982). We are compelled by that holding to vacate this appellant's plea, for in this case, as in Patterson, the sentencing phase of a capital proceeding was improperly tried to a jury. Because issues have been raised which may arise again on retrial, we address several questions by way of guidance to the trial court.

In pretrial motions, appellant sought a change of venue, a limitation on the use of peremptory challenges by the solicitor, and certain restrictions upon the disqualification of jurors for cause. These motions were denied. After the jury had been selected and sworn, appellant changed his plea to each indictment from "not guilty" to "guilty". The record reveals that moments before the court accepted appellant's guilty pleas, defense counsel made an equivocating statement the crucial portion of which follows:

... to sum up what I'm saying, Judge, to the extent that the Court was correct in denying pre-trial motions numbers 3, 4 and 5, it is my judgment that this plea was voluntary. However, to the extent that the denial of any of these three motions did, as we maintain, deny this young man a jury that was constitutionally selected, it would be my judgment and I think the record should reflect our position, that the plea is in fact the product of what we assert to be a deprivation of his constitutional rights....

In effect, appellant here entered a conditional plea which is a practice not recognized in South Carolina and a practice which we expressly disapprove. Pleas of guilty are unconditional, and if an accused attempts to attach any condition or qualification thereto, the trial court should direct a plea of not guilty. Roberts v. Warden, 221 Md. 576, 155 A.2d 891, cert. denied Roberts v. Pepersack, 362 U.S. 953, 80 S.Ct. 866, 4 L.Ed.2d 871; 22 C.J.S. Criminal Law § 423(1); 21 Am.Jur.2d, Criminal Law, section 487. The basis for this rule is, of course, the settled doctrine that a guilty plea constitutes waiver of all prior claims of constitutional rights or deprivations thereof. State v. Patterson, supra.; Whetsell v. State, 276 S.C. 295, 277 S.E.2d 891; Rivers v. Strickland, 264 S.C. 121, 213 S.E.2d 97; Lefkowitz v. Newsome, 420 U.S. 283, 289, 95 S.Ct. 886, 889, 43 L.Ed.2d 196 (and cases cited therein). It was thus improper for appellant to seek to preserve the constitutional issues enumerated above while entering pleas of guilty. It was error of the trial court to accept the pleas on such terms.

By pretrial motions, appellant sought to accomplish several goals. First he requested a change of venue prior to voir dire examination of prospective jurors. Next he sought to control the manner in which the State exercised peremptory challenges, ostensibly to prevent the solicitor from practicing racial discrimination. Finally the appellant attempted to prevent disqualification of jurors under section 16-3-20(E), Code, upon the theory that a jury so selected could not be impartial.

The motions were denied, and properly so, for this Court has basically settled these issues on prior occasions. It appears that our holdings have not been sufficiently emphatic to deter the reopening of closed questions. We are concerned both that dilatory pretrial motions unduly burden the judicial process itself and that, practically speaking, the indulgence of frivolous and futile motions can bring about an unwise depletion of the obviously limited public funds available for the defense of indigents. We therefore address each of appellant's motions with the aims of clarity and finality.

Change of Venue: In support of his motion, appellant offered newspaper clippings transcripts of radio broadcasts, numerous form affidavits, and testimony of citizens and local attorneys to show that an impartial jury could not be selected in Lancaster County. A trial judge ruling upon such a motion exercises his sound discretion and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion. State v. Tyner, 273 S.C. 646, 649, 258 S.E.2d 559 (and cases cited therein). There was no error in denial of the motion based upon the showing just recited.

In addition to the foregoing, appellant offered the results of a public opinion survey conducted by Professor Joseph E. Jacoby, University of South Carolina College of Criminal Justice. The object of this survey was to raise a presumption of prejudice that would obviate any subsequent voir dire of prospective jurors. South Carolina has no per se rule on presumptive prejudice, and this Court declines to adopt one. We note that the presumption is rarely indulged, even in federal courts. In only one instance, that our research reveals, has the Supreme Court of the United States found that empaneling of a jury and any subsequent trial would have been mere "hollow formality" because of a showing made prior to the jury selection process. In that case a sound film of the accused's confession, made under outrageous conditions, was televised repeatedly throughout the trial vicinity. Rideau v. Louisiana, 373 U.S. 723, 726, 83 S.Ct. 1417, 1419, 10 L.Ed.2d 663. That decision obviously provides little guidance in the circumstances of this appeal.

Perhaps the best known of federal cases involving pre-voir dire presumption of prejudice was the trial of former aides to Richard Nixon arising out of the Watergate incident. U.S. v. Haldeman, D.C.Cir., 559 F.2d 31, cert. denied 431 U.S. 933, 97 S.Ct. 2641, 53 L.Ed.2d 250, rehearing denied 433 U.S. 916, 97 S.Ct. 2992, 53 L.Ed.2d 1103. Moving for a change of venue before jury voir dire, the defendants in Haldeman offered a nationwide opinion survey in support of their contention that the population of Washington, D.C., could not yield a fair and impartial jury. The motion was denied, and on review the appellate court offered the following advice:

It is our judgment that in determining whether a fair and impartial jury could be empanelled the trial court did not err in relying less heavily on a poll taken in private by private pollsters and paid for by one side than on a recorded, comprehensive voir dire examination conducted by the judge in the presence of all parties and their counsel pursuant to procedures, practices and principles developed by the common law since the reign of Henry II. 559 F.2d at 64.

See also U.S. v. Eagle, 586 F.2d 1193 (8th Cir.); U.S. v. Mandel, 431 F.Supp. 90 (D.Md.1977); State v. Coleates, 53 A.D.2d 1018, 386 N.Y.S.2d 525 (and cases cited therein).

The public opinion survey of Professor Jacoby was commissioned by the appellant and has subsequently been published and discussed by Dr. Jacoby in 73 Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 378-387 (Spring 1982). A staff of seventeen interviewers, including defense counsel, sampled the population of Lancaster County in a ratio of seventy-nine percent white residents and twenty-one percent black. The survey revealed over sixty percent of the respondents had no opinion regarding appellant's guilt or believed that he was in fact not guilty. In a county where such a majority shows no preconception of the defendant's guilt, a presumption of prejudice could hardly arise. To grant a change of venue in such circumstances would be an abuse of discretion. The trial court was clearly entitled to proceed with voir dire of prospective jurors.

The instant case vividly illustrates the difficulty encountered in the rise of survey data. While Professor Jacoby described the design of his survey in considerable detail, he nowhere explained to the court what, if any, behavioral model informed his practice of the surveying art. When asked why his method was superior to voir dire under oath, the witness set forth several sweeping assumptions about human nature:

Your Honor, people are very well aware that they are not supposed to acknowledge being prejudiced and biased. Everyone knows that.

I think it's a matter of common sense, Your Honor. I don't think it's a matter of professional training that people know that they are not supposed to acknowledge being biased.

These characterizations of contemporary societal standards were refuted during voir dire when eight prospective...

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27 cases
  • State v. Easler
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 2, 1996 not required to accept the plea." State v. Whitted, 279 S.C. 260, 262-63, 305 S.E.2d 245, 247 (1983). See also State v. Truesdale, 278 S.C. 368, 296 S.E.2d 528 (1982) ("Pleas of guilty are unconditional, and if an accused attempts to attach any condition or qualification thereto, the tri......
  • State v. Copeland
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • November 10, 1982
    ...under Supreme Court Rule 8, section 10, and amounts in our view to a "reopening of closed questions" as discussed in State v. Truesdale, S.C., 296 S.E.2d 528 (1982). Normally the issue would be dismissed without comment. We deem it appropriate, however, to make one final pronouncement on th......
  • State v. Inman
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • January 25, 2012
    ...attempts to attach any condition or qualification thereto, the trial court should direct a plea of not guilty.” State v. Truesdale, 278 S.C. 368, 370, 296 S.E.2d 528, 529 (1982). “If the trial court accepts a conditional guilty plea, then the plea will be vacated on appeal.” Downs, 361 S.C.......
  • Truesdale v. Moore
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
    • April 29, 1998
    ...a sentence of death on the murder charge. The sentence was vacated on direct appeal and a new trial ordered. State v. Truesdale, 278 S.C. 368, 296 S.E.2d 528 (1982). At this second trial, which took place in 1983, Truesdale again pled not guilty to all charges. The State supplemented its ev......
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