The State v. Burgess, Opinion No.  4765

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtFEW, C.J.
PartiesThe State, Respondent, v. Darrell Burgess, Appellant.
Decision Date15 December 2010
Docket NumberOpinion No.  4765

The State, Respondent,
Darrell Burgess, Appellant.

Opinion No. 4765

In The Court of Appeals

Heard: May 19, 2010
Filed: December 15, 2010

Appeal From Lexington County
Knox McMahon, Circuit Court Judge


Deputy Chief Appellate Defender Robert M. Dudek, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Senior Assistant Attorney General William Edgar Salter, III, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Donald V. Myers, of Lexington, for Respondent.

FEW, C.J.: DarrellBurgess was convicted of the drug-related murders of David Slice and Kim Fauscette. The trial judge sentenced Burgess to two life sentences for the murders, and five years for possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Burgess has raised two issues on appeal. First, he challenges the trial judge's decision not to remove a juror who realized after jury selection that the brother of Slice's estranged wife worked for him. Second, he argues the judge violated his constitutional right to present a complete defense by excluding evidence of third party guilt. We affirm.

I. Facts

Slice and Fauscette lived together in a "crack house" in Gaston with at least one other person. During the evening of September 5, 2005, and continuing into the following morning, Slice, Fauscette and a crack dealer named James Johnson had been talking, watching television, drinking alcohol and smoking crack in the mobile home. Before dawn on September 5, Burgess arrived unexpectedly and Fauscette allowed him inside. Burgess explained that he wrecked his car and was running from the police. Burgess did not mention that Michael Wise drove him to his house after the wreck so Burgess could get his gun and Wise was waiting outside. Burgess, Slice, Fauscette and Johnson sat around for ten or fifteen minutes while Burgess waited for Johnson to leave. Eventually, Burgess stood up and shot Slice three times and Fauscette twice, killing them both. Johnson ran away when Burgess's gun emptied. Burgess fled the scene with Wise.

II. The Decision not to Remove the Juror

After the jury was selected but before opening statements, a member of the jury notified the deputy clerk of court that "he recognized a lady in the audience."1 The judge brought the juror into the courtroom to question him. The juror explained that after jury selection he recognized a woman in the courtroom whom he believed to be Georgette Slice. Georgette, who had not been introduced to the jury panel during voir dire, was the estranged wife of David Slice, and the sister of a man the juror supervised at work. The judge asked the juror if he could still be a fair and impartial juror to both the State and the defense, to which the juror responded "yes, sir." Outside of the juror's presence, the judge asked if either side wanted additional voir dire. Burgess requested that the juror be asked whether he discussed the situation with any other members of the jury, and that the juror be removed for cause. After returning to the courtroom, the juror testified he had not discussed it with anyone in the jury room. He again testified he could be fair and impartial to both sides. The juror also testified he had not heard anything about the case and did not even know the murders occurred. Neither side requested further voir dire.

We find no error in the judge's decision not to remove the juror. First, the fact that a juror has some relationship with the victim does not automatically require the trial judge to remove the juror. See State v. Jones, 298 S.C. 118, 121, 378 S.E.2d 594, 596 (1989) ("The mere fact that a person is a friend or acquaintance of the deceased does not render him incompetent as a juror.");State v. Wells, 249 S.C. 249, 259-60, 153 S.E.2d 904, 909-10 (1967) (affirming qualification of a juror who directly employed victim a year or more prior to trial); State v. Hilton, 87 S.C. 434, 439, 69 S.E. 1077, 1078 (1910) ("There is no rule of the common law, nor is there a statute disqualifying a juror on account of his relationship to a witness, either by affinity or consanguinity, within any degree."). Second, the juror did not conceal any information requested during voir dire.2 Finally, the judge acted within his discretion in finding the juror could be fair and impartial. See State v. Mercer, 381 S.C. 149, 158, 672 S.E.2d 556, 560-61 (2009) (describing the trial judge's broad discretion to determine whether a juror is qualified); State v. Bell, 374 S.C. 136, 147, 646 S.E.2d 888, 894 (Ct. App. 2007) ("A decision on whether to dismiss a juror and replace her with an alternate is within the sound discretion of the trial court....").

Burgess argues, however, that the juror should have been excused based on the supreme court's reasoning in State v. Stone, 350 S.C. 442, 567 S.E.2d 244 (2002). We believe Burgess misinterprets the opinion. In Stone, the State called the defendant's aunt to testify during the penalty phase of a capital trial. 350 S.C. at 448, 567 S.E.2d at 247. One of the jurors realized she knew the aunt, and the trial judge granted the State's request to remove the juror. Id. On appeal, the supreme court quoted its decision in State v. Woods:

When a juror conceals information inquired into during voir dire, a new trial is required only when the court finds the juror intentionally concealed the information, and that the information concealed would have supported a challenge for cause or would have been a material factor in the use of the party's peremptory challenges.

350 S.C. at 448, 567 S.E.2d at 247 (emphasis added) (quoting State v. Woods, 345 S.C. 583, 587-88, 550 S.E.2d 282, 284 (2001)). Calling Woods "instructive," the Stone court held the removal of the juror was error because neither of the criteria listed in Woods existed. 350 S.C. at 448-49, 567 S.E.2d at 247-48. First, the court stated "[i]t is patent here that [the juror's] failure to disclose her acquaintance with [the witness] was innocent." 350 S.C. at 448, 567 S.E.2d at 247. Second, the court stated "we find her scant acquaintance would neither have supported a challenge for cause nor would it have been a material factor in the state's exercise of its peremptory challenges." 350 S.C. at 448, 567 S.E.2d at 247-48. However, either of those findings would have independently rendered the trial judge's removal of the Stone juror erroneous.

When a party contends a juror should be removed for failure to disclose information during voir dire, Stone requires the...

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