State v. Woomer, No. 21442

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtLITTLEJOHN; LEWIS, C. J., and GREGORY, J., and WILLIAM L. RHODES, Jr.; NESS; HARWELL; NESS
Citation276 S.C. 258,277 S.E.2d 696
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Ronald Raymond WOOMER, Appellant.
Decision Date28 April 1981
Docket NumberNo. 21442

Page 696

277 S.E.2d 696
276 S.C. 258
The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Ronald Raymond WOOMER, Appellant.
No. 21442.
Supreme Court of South Carolina.
April 28, 1981.

Page 697

[276 S.C. 260] Chief Atty. John L. Sweeny and David I. Bruck, both of S. C. Commission of Appellate Defense, Columbia, for appellant.

Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod and Asst. Atty. Gen. Kay G. Crowe, Columbia, and Sol. James O. Dunn, Conway, for respondent.

LITTLEJOHN, Justice:

Defendant Ronald Raymond Woomer was indicted in Horry County and convicted by a jury (1) of the murder of Della Louise Sellers, (2) of assault and battery with intent to kill on the person of Wanda Summers, (3) of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree on the person of Wanda Summers, and (4) of two counts of kidnapping of Wanda Summers and Della Louise Sellers. He was sentenced to punishment by death. An automatic review by this court is mandated by § 16-3-25, Code of Laws of South Carolina (1976), as amended (Supp.1980). An understanding of the facts is necessary to treatment of the issues.

Page 698

On February 20, 1979, Woomer and Gene Skaar left West Virginia, their apparent home, and drove to Myrtle Beach in Horry County, South Carolina. They arrived the following day, rented a motel room, and immediately visited a local coin shop owner. The owner and Skaar agreed upon a scheme whereby the owner would identify local coin collectors and point out their residences. Skaar and Woomer would then steal the coin collections and sell them to the coin shop owner. Although Woomer apparently had never before participated [276 S.C. 261] in this scheme, he had been expressly told by Skaar, prior to departing from West Virginia, that the purpose of the trip was to make money by robbing people. Woomer additionally understood beforehand that no victims were to remain alive.

On February 22, Woomer and Skaar drove about 130 miles to the home of John Turner in Colleton County, where they stole his coin collection and numerous suits. Woomer then marched Turner to a back room and killed him with a single pistol shot in the head.

They began their return to the motel where they could contact their informer, sell the coins, and realize their profit. However, they first stopped at another home and robbed the residents of some money and several firearms. The occupants, a man, woman and young child, were all shot in the head and killed by several blasts from Woomer's shotgun.

Driving back towards Myrtle Beach around 6:30 p. m., they stopped at Jack's Mini-Mall, a small grocery store/filling station on Pawley's Island in Georgetown County, and decided to rob it. Della Louise Sellers and her husband had relieved Wanda Summers about 3 o'clock that afternoon and were managing the store when Woomer and Skaar entered. Mrs. Summers later returned to the store, together with several customers. Everyone was forced to the floor. Woomer and Skaar required Mrs. Sellers and Mrs. Summers to assist them in opening the cash register. Both women were then taken hostage.

Upon reentering Horry County, the hostages were requested to find some back road where they were to be released unharmed. They were raped instead. Woomer then ordered them to leave by walking away close together. He trailed them about twenty-five yards and then fired his shotgun, striking Mrs. Summers in the lower side of her head and knocking both women to the ground. When Mrs. Sellers turned and began screaming, Woomer placed his handgun to her forehead and shot her.

[276 S.C. 262] Woomer and Skaar returned to the motel. Mrs. Summers, despite missing the lower quarter of her face, remained conscious and stumbled to a nearby house. An ambulance rushed both victims to the hospital. Mrs. Sellers died several hours later; Mrs. Summers survived and testified at the trial.

Police officers arrived at the motel the same evening to arrest Woomer and Skaar. Skaar apparently shot and killed himself during the arrest. Woomer was taken into custody and gave a lengthy confession the following day.

Numerous exceptions have been raised on appeal by Woomer.

I. FEES LIMITATION FOR EXPERT SERVICES.

Woomer argues that the statutory limitation on expenditures for skilled services for an indigent defendant violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection.

Code § 16-3-26(c) as amended (Supp.1980) of the death penalty statute provides in part the following:

"(C) Upon a finding in ex parte proceedings that investigative, expert or other services are reasonably necessary for the representation of the defendant whether in connection with issues relating to guilt or sentence, the court shall authorize the defendant's attorneys to obtain such services on behalf of the defendant and shall order the payment, from state funds appropriated for the defense of indigents, of fees and expenses not to exceed two thousand dollars as the court shall deem appropriate...."

Page 699

It is contended by Woomer that this limitation denied him a complete psychological evaluation, thereby hindering preparation of an adequate defense. We disagree.

The trial judge denied Woomer's request to exceed the limit only after finding that a need for excess funds had not been shown. We agree with his findings. The record discloses that Woomer received three (3) psychiatric examinations [276 S.C. 263] covering a spectrum of the most advanced testing known. Each expert testified that Woomer knew right from wrong on February 22, 1979. His own psychiatrist, financed by state funds, testified as follows:

"It's my opinion that both legally and morally, this patient knows the difference between right and wrong. It's simply that he doesn't care.... He does what he wants to do, when he wants to do it; and if it's an illegal act and there are witnesses, then he simply kills them."

The ability to adequately prepare one's defense may well entail access to certain necessary expert services; it does not require the State to blindly fund an expensive fishing expedition. There simply is no showing that failure to relax the statutory limitation denied Woomer a fair trial.

II. ADMISSIBILITY OF EVIDENCE OF RAPE OF MRS. SELLERS.

Under the South Carolina statutory complex, a capital defendant's guilt or innocence is determined by a judge or jury in the first stage of a bifurcated trial. During the first phase of this trial, the pathologist who examined the body of Mrs. Sellers following the rape and shooting was called by the State to testify concerning his examination. He testified, without objection, that the cause of Mrs. Sellers' death was a gunshot wound to the brain inflicted by a .32 calibre pistol placed directly in contact with the scalp. The pathologist then identified a distorted projectile as being the bullet he recovered from the brain of the deceased. Further testimony described significant bruising around the face of Mrs. Sellers, including badly swollen and bloody eyes. Counsel for Woomer then made an out-of-court objection to the introduction of any testimony connected with the rape of Mrs. Sellers on the grounds that it was immaterial and would be highly inflammatory and prejudicial since she was raped by Skaar and not Woomer. The State argued that any such testimony was admissible to show the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping in which Woomer participated [276 S.C. 264] and under the theory that "the hand of one is the hand of all." The objection was overruled and the pathologist proceeded to testify to human bite marks, in addition to other bruises and abrasions, found upon Mrs. Sellers' body.

Evidence is admissible if it logically or reasonably tends to prove or disprove a crime charged or any fact material to the issue. State v. Hoffman, 257 S.C. 461, 186 S.E.2d 421 (1972). The decision of the trial judge to receive or exclude the challenged evidence is largely one within his discretion and will not be disturbed absent some clear abuse. State v. Hiott, S.C., 268 S.E.2d 163 (Op. # 21398, Smith's Advance Sheets, filed March 3, 1981).

It is well-established that one who joins with another to accomplish an illegal purpose is liable criminally for everything done by his confederate incidental to the...

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24 practice notes
  • State v. Copeland, No. 21808
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 10 Noviembre 1982
    ...State v. Woomer, S.C., 284 S.E.2d 357 (1981); State v. Plath, supra; State v. Adams, supra; State v. Linder, supra; State v. Woomer, 276 S.C. 258, 277 S.E.2d 696 (1981); State v. Goolsby, supra; State v. Tyner, It is of no consequence that the South Carolina "universe" has consisted of only......
  • State v. Humphries, No. 3380.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 6 Agosto 2001
    ...omitted). The Supreme Court found evidence of prior crimes admissible under the common scheme or plan exception in State v. Woomer, 276 S.C. 258, 277 S.E.2d 696 (1981), overruled on other grounds by State v. Torrence, 305 S.C. 45, 406 S.E.2d 315 (1991). On February 20, 1979, Ronald Woomer a......
  • State v. Torrence, No. 23403
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 1 Mayo 1989
    ...denied, 458 U.S. 1122, 102 S.Ct. 3510, 73 L.Ed.2d 1384, reh. denied, 458 U.S. 1132, 103 S.Ct. 18, 73 L.Ed.2d 1403 (1982); State v. Woomer, 276 S.C. 258, 277 S.E.2d 696 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); St......
  • State v. Gaskins, No. 22217
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 12 Septiembre 1984
    ...957, 100 S.Ct. 437, 62 L.Ed.2d 329 (1979); Roach v. South Carolina, 444 U.S. 1026, 100 S.Ct. 690, 62 L.Ed.2d 660 (1980); State v. Woomer, 276 S.C. 258, 277 S.E.2d 696 (1981), 278 [284 S.C. 131] S.C. 468, 299 S.E.2d 317 (1982); and State v. Thompson, 278 S.C. 1, 292 S.E.2d 581, cert. den., 4......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
24 cases
  • State v. Copeland, No. 21808
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 10 Noviembre 1982
    ...State v. Woomer, S.C., 284 S.E.2d 357 (1981); State v. Plath, supra; State v. Adams, supra; State v. Linder, supra; State v. Woomer, 276 S.C. 258, 277 S.E.2d 696 (1981); State v. Goolsby, supra; State v. Tyner, It is of no consequence that the South Carolina "universe" has consisted of only......
  • State v. Humphries, No. 3380.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 6 Agosto 2001
    ...omitted). The Supreme Court found evidence of prior crimes admissible under the common scheme or plan exception in State v. Woomer, 276 S.C. 258, 277 S.E.2d 696 (1981), overruled on other grounds by State v. Torrence, 305 S.C. 45, 406 S.E.2d 315 (1991). On February 20, 1979, Ronald Woomer a......
  • State v. Torrence, No. 23403
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 1 Mayo 1989
    ...denied, 458 U.S. 1122, 102 S.Ct. 3510, 73 L.Ed.2d 1384, reh. denied, 458 U.S. 1132, 103 S.Ct. 18, 73 L.Ed.2d 1403 (1982); State v. Woomer, 276 S.C. 258, 277 S.E.2d 696 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); St......
  • State v. Gaskins, No. 22217
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 12 Septiembre 1984
    ...957, 100 S.Ct. 437, 62 L.Ed.2d 329 (1979); Roach v. South Carolina, 444 U.S. 1026, 100 S.Ct. 690, 62 L.Ed.2d 660 (1980); State v. Woomer, 276 S.C. 258, 277 S.E.2d 696 (1981), 278 [284 S.C. 131] S.C. 468, 299 S.E.2d 317 (1982); and State v. Thompson, 278 S.C. 1, 292 S.E.2d 581, cert. den., 4......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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