State v. Yates, 21835

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Citation310 S.E.2d 805,280 S.C. 29
Docket NumberNo. 21835,21835
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Dale Robert YATES, Appellant.
Decision Date22 December 1982

Stephen J. Henry and John I. Mauldin, Greenville, and South Carolina Com'n of Appellate Defense, for appellant.

Atty. Gen. Daniel R. McLeod, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen. Brian P. Gibbes and Asst. Atty. Gen. Harold M. Coombs, Jr., Columbia, and Sol. William B. Traxler, Greenville, for respondent.


Appellant, Dale Robert Yates, was indicted and convicted of murder, armed robbery, assault and battery with intent to kill, and conspiracy. After being found guilty of murder, the jury recommended at the second phase of the bifurcated trial, that he should die by electrocution. From these convictions and sentence, he appeals. The basic issue involved in the appeal is whether the death sentence should be carried out.

On February 12, 1981, David Loftis (not on trial), Henry Davis (killed in the robbery), and Appellant Yates talked about various places to rob and rode around in the car of Davis looking for a store which could be easily robbed. As a part of the plan, they borrowed a gun from the Appellant's brother. On the following day, February 13, they continued to ride around, casing places to rob. The Appellant and Davis left Loftis (who turned state's evidence) at a shopping mall and drove away with the pistol under the passenger's side of the front seat. The Appellant and Davis subsequently entered Wood's rural store, by the Appellant's own testimony, for the purpose of committing armed robbery. Appellant was armed with the pistol and Davis with a knife. They demanded and received approximately $3,000 from Willie Wood, who was alone and in charge of the store operation. When Willie Wood failed to cooperate to the satisfaction of the robbers, the Appellant shot him, but not fatally. About that time, the mother of Willie Wood, who was the postmistress in the adjoining building, came upon the scene. The Appellant ran out of the store, taking the money and the gun. Davis remained in the store, and stabbed Mrs. Wood to death with his knife. Willie Wood succeeded in obtaining a gun and killed Davis. After Appellant waited in Davis' car and concluded that Davis had been caught, he drove off, hid the money and pistol in a wooded area, and was later apprehended.

The Appellant testified in his own behalf. His testimony was not inconsistent with the facts recited above. It was his contention that he did not kill Mrs. Wood and that it was his intent all along to abandon the robbery without hurting anybody if the victims refused to cooperate.

The Appellant has stated forty exceptions in quest of a reversal of the convictions and sentence. These exceptions have been argued in the form of twenty questions as included in the Appellant's Brief.

The first three questions submit error on the part of the trial judge in (1) qualifying jurors Volpe, Wallace, Springfield, and Trammell, (2) in excusing certain jurors because of their opposition to capital punishment, and (3) refusing to excuse prospective jurors because of their response to voir dire questions. We have reviewed the relevant portions of the record dealing with these exceptions and the jurors involved. The interrogations of jurors must be considered as a whole. The qualifications should not be determined on the basis of isolated questions and answers not truly meaningful. The judge must exercise his discretion in qualifying and excusing jurors. We find no error. Certainly, there is no abuse of discretion. Appellant's rights, under Witherspoon v. Illinois, 391 U.S. 510, 88 S.Ct. 1770, 20 L.Ed.2d 776 (1968) have not been violated. Principles enunciated in that case have been respected and applied.

Next, Appellant asserts that the trial court erred in denying the motions for change of venue, a change of forum and for additional peremptory challenges. The first two of these are discretionary; peremptory challenges are controlled by statute. We find no showing that this discretion has been abused or that Appellant has suffered from actual juror prejudice. State v. Thompson, 276 S.C. 616, 281 S.E.2d 216 (1981), State v. Plath, 277 S.C. 126, 284 S.E.2d 221 (1981). The trial court properly denied these motions.

Early on, we point out that throughout the trial, the prosecuting attorney made it clear that he was not prosecuting the Appellant on the theory of a felony murder. It was his contention that both Appellant Yates and deceased Davis were present aiding and abetting each other in the commission of a planned armed robbery and that the hand of one was the hand of all. The judge charged the law of common law murder applicable in this state.

Appellant argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to strike armed robbery as an aggravating circumstance. The possibility that Appellant was convicted on a theory of vicarious liability and then sentenced to death based upon the aggravating circumstances of armed robbery which was the foundation of the original murder conviction is asserted by Appellant to be reversible error.

The trial judge in the penalty phase of the trial instructed the jury that the only statutory aggravating circumstance which they were to consider was the murder which was committed while the Defendant was in commission of the crime of robbery while armed with a deadly weapon. This is a statutory aggravating circumstance pursuant to South Carolina Code § 16-3-20(C)(a)(1)(e) (Cum.Supp.1981). Since this state adheres to the common law rule of murder and makes no distinction between murder and felony murder, a statutory aggravating circumstance of murder in a death penalty case remains as such regardless of whether the crime charged is murder or felony murder. State v. Thompson, supra. The Appellant is equally responsible for the stabbing death of Mrs. Wood, even though he did not actually cast the fatal blows. Appellant and Henry Davis entered the store armed and did commit a robbery. As a direct result of their joint actions in committing the armed robbery, Mrs. Wood was killed.

That States have authority to make aiders and abettors equally responsible, as a matter of law, with principals, or to enact felony-murder statutes is beyond constitutional challenge. Lockett v. Ohio, 438 U.S. 586, 602, 98 S.Ct. 2954, 2963, 57 L.Ed.2d 973 (1978).

There was no error in the trial judge's denying Appellant's motion to strike armed robbery as an aggravating circumstance.

Appellant further argues that the trial court erred in denying Appellant's motion to authorize the spending of certain state funds pursuant to South Carolina Code § 16-3-26(C) for a jury selection expert and for an expert as to the non-deterrent effect of capital punishment.

The decision of the amount of statutory funds to be expended rests in the discretion of the trial judge. This court will not disturb such decisions absent a showing of an abuse of that discretion. Appellant requested a five-hundred dollar fee for a jury selection expert. This expert stated that he would provide his expertise regardless of whether or not the court ordered the payment of his fee. His services were available in spite of the lower court's refusal to authorize such funds.

We are of the opinion that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion in denying these requests. This statute does not require the trial judge to honor every request made by defense counsel. But only those requests that "... are reasonably necessary for the representation of the defendant...." The court is empowered to decide which requests are appropriate. No error.

Appellant asserts that the trial court erred in allowing the Solicitor to express his opinion of the deterrent effects of capital punishment in argument to the jury. In reviewing this argument, as a whole, we find the argument to be within the perimeters permitted by this Court. The Solicitor's argument was acceptable and well within the confines as set forth by the lower court. The trial judge stated before these arguments that both sides would be allowed wide latitude in arguing their respective positions concerning the deterrent effect of capital punishment.

Appellant challenges the trial court's refusal to enjoin the Solicitor from seeking the death penalty in his case. Appellant based this challenge on the prosecutor's record of handling previous death penalty cases involving triggermen and non-triggermen. A triggerman is the person who actually fires the fatal shots or uses the deadly weapon to cause a death. Appellant argues that the Solicitor normally sought the death penalty only against the triggerman.

It would be error for the trial judge to tell a Solicitor how to determine whether the death penalty should be sought. This is the prerogative of the Solicitor. The exception is without merit.

Appellant's motion seeking to prevent pre-trial press coverage of the preliminary hearing was properly denied by the magistrate in question. Appellant has failed to show any actual prejudice by the press coverage or the magistrate's handling of this one limited purpose phase of the trial.

The trial judge's finding of "... fact beyond any reasonable doubt that this defendant is competent to stand trial ..." is well supported by ample evidence before the lower court. Appellant's exception as to his competency to stand trial is without merit.

Appellant asserts that it was error for the trial court to deny his request for separate juries in the guilt and penalty phase of the trial. Also, it was error to excuse potential jurors who were opposed to the death penalty. The death penalty statute in South Carolina does not contemplate or provide for two separate juries in such a trial. This court has resolved the issue of disqualifying jurors who oppose the death penalty adversely to the Appellant in State v. Hyman, 276 S.C. 559, 281 S.E.2d 209 (1981); State v. Linder, 276 S.C. 304, 278 S.E.2d 335 (1981) and ...

To continue reading

Request your trial
30 cases
  • Whalen v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Delaware
    • July 2, 1984
    ...State, Miss.Supr., 435 So.2d 645, 655-656 (1983); Hatch v. State, Okla.Crim.App., 662 P.2d 1377, 1382-1383 (1983); State v. Yates, S.C.Supr., 310 S.E.2d 805, 812-813 (1982); Osborn v. State, Wyo.Supr., 672 P.2d 777, 792-795 The few opinions involving single defendants have rather summarily ......
  • State v. Torrence
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 1, 1989
    ...v. Thompson, 278 S.C. 1, 292 S.E.2d 581 (1982), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 938, 102 S.Ct. 1996, 72 L.Ed.2d 458 (1982);State v. Yates, 280 S.C. 29, 310 S.E.2d 805 (1982);State v. Adams, 277 S.C. 115, 283 S.E.2d 582 (1981);State v. Hyman, 276 S.C. 559, 281 S.E.2d 209 (1981), cert. denied, 458 U.S......
  • Tucker v. Moore
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of South Carolina
    • March 15, 1999
    ...if not coercive, is acceptable during the sentencing phase in a capital case.), and was reasonable in light of State v. Yates, 280 S.C. 29, 310 S.E.2d 805, 811 (S.C.1982) (The legal effect of a deadlocked jury during the sentencing phase of a capital case, namely, that the judge must give a......
  • State v. Shafer
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 8, 2000
    ...... State v. Truesdale, 301 S.C. 546, 393 S.E.2d 168, cert. denied 498 U.S. 1074, 111 S.Ct. 800, 112 L.Ed.2d 861 (1990); State v. Jones, 298 S.C. 118, 378 S.E.2d 594 (1989) ; State v. Yates, 280 S.C. 29, 310 S.E.2d 805 (1982), cert. denied 462 U.S. 1124, 103 S.Ct. 3098, 77 L.Ed.2d 1356 (1983), overruled on other grounds State v. Torrence, 305 S.C. 45, 406 S.E.2d 315 (1991) . Since argument on general deterrence is permitted, it would be illogical to instruct the jury it may not ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT