The State v. Dickerson, No. 27048.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtJustice HEARN.
Citation716 S.E.2d 895,395 S.C. 101
Decision Date17 November 2011
Docket NumberNo. 27048.
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent,v.William O. DICKERSON, Appellant.

395 S.C. 101
716 S.E.2d 895

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
William O. DICKERSON, Appellant.

No. 27048.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard May 24, 2011.Decided Oct. 3, 2011.Rehearing Denied Nov. 17, 2011.


[716 S.E.2d 898]

Chief Appellate Defender Robert M. Dudek, and Appellate Defender Kathrine H. Hudgins, South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense, of Columbia, and Jeffrey P. Bloom, of Columbia, for Appellant.Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, and Senior Assistant Attorney General Melody J. Brown, Office of the Attorney General, of Columbia, and Solicitor Scarlett Anne Wilson, of Charleston, for Respondent.Justice HEARN.

[395 S.C. 106] A jury convicted William Dickerson of first degree murder, kidnapping, and criminal sexual conduct, and he was sentenced to death. Dickerson now appeals his sentence pursuant to Section 16–3–25(A) of the South Carolina Code (2003). He argues the circuit court erred: (1) in not excusing a juror for cause; (2) in limiting the cross-examination of the pathologist called by the State; (3) in not charging the jury on the [395 S.C. 107] law of accessory after the fact; and (4) in limiting the testimony of Dickerson's cousin during the penalty phase of his trial. We affirm and further find that Dickerson's sentence is proportional, supported by the evidence, and not the result of passion, prejudice, or any other arbitrary factor.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Dickerson and Gerard Roper had been friends, even best friends, since childhood. On the morning of March 6, 2006, Roper went to his friend, Ben Drayton's, house to play video games. Around the same time, Dickerson went to his friend, Antonio Nelson's, house asking for a ride to his brother, Armon Dickerson's, house. Nelson was unable to give Dickerson a ride at that time and told him to come back later. When Dickerson returned later that afternoon, he was carrying a gun.

[716 S.E.2d 899]

En route to Armon's house, however, Dickerson began calling Roper from his cell phone. After receiving no answer, Dickerson asked if they could make a stop at Drayton's house so he could “get some money.” When they arrived at Drayton's home, Dickerson entered brandishing his weapon and asking for money. Roper told Dickerson “I got your money,” begging “don't shoot me” and “please don't kill me.” Dickerson nevertheless fired a shot at Roper but missed. He then struck Roper in the head with the gun, dragged him out of the house, and forced him into Nelson's car. Dickerson then took Roper to Armon's house. 1

Armon and Dickerson brought Roper inside and systematically tortured him over approximately thirty-six hours. It started with Dickerson continuing to hit Roper with the gun, knocking out some of his teeth. Armon then left to retrieve Dickerson's car and some drugs, and blood covered the inside of the house when he returned. Dickerson then called another friend of his, Rashid Malik, and threatened him with death if he did not come to Armon's house. 2 When Malik arrived, [395 S.C. 108] Roper was still conscious but clothed only in his T-shirt, and Armon was attempting to clean up the blood covering the house. Malik then joined Armon and Dickerson.

Although Dickerson, Armon, and Malik all tortured Roper to varying degrees, Dickerson appeared to be the primary actor.3 Through this entire ordeal, Roper suffered the following at the hands of Dickerson alone: choking, being tied up and placed in a closet, being sodomized with a gun and a broomstick, having his scrotum burned, being hit with a heavy vase and a mirror, and generalized beating and cutting. At one point, Roper began asking that they just let him die.

All told, Roper received over 200 individual wounds to the outside of his body, including lacerations to his anus. He also received several internal injuries, including various broken bones in his face that caused it to appear misshapen, blunt force trauma to his neck resulting in the breaking of various structures, a broken tibia, broken fingers and wrist, brain swelling, and bleeding into the internal structures around his rectum as the result of objects being inserted into it. Although there is no definite timeline of events, Roper survived for eighteen to twenty-four hours after the sodomy occurred, and none of these wounds were inflicted post-mortem. No single wound was fatal. Instead, Roper died from the sum total of his injuries, apparently shortly after he was struck with the mirror and the vase on the morning of March 8.

As these events transpired, Dickerson made several phone calls to various people during which he discussed what he was doing to Roper. Many of them were to Dickerson's girlfriend, and she managed to record one of them containing his description of the sodomy and even Roper's own confirmation of what was happening. Dickerson also confirmed the sodomy, as well as the burning of Roper's scrotum, over the phone to another friend. In a later call to that same friend, he said that Roper [395 S.C. 109] was “gone.” However, he told a different friend that Roper was all right but that Dickerson needed to run.

Dickerson and Armon wrapped Roper's semi-clothed body in a blanket and dumped it in the vacant townhouse next to Armon's. Dickerson then changed clothes and fled. Armon and Rouse attempted to clean Armon's house, but they abandoned it upon realizing their efforts would be futile. That same day, a woman who was planning to rent the vacant townhouse entered and discovered Roper's bloodied and mutilated body.

[716 S.E.2d 900]

Dickerson was arrested on March 11, 2006, and indicted for murder, kidnapping, and criminal sexual conduct. During voir dire, Juror 370 was the second venireman to be called. He initially identified himself as the type of juror who was able to recommend a sentence of death or life without parole in the appropriate circumstances. The following exchanges then occurred between Juror 370 and the circuit judge:

Q. I would also instruct you that the only party which has any burden of proof in this proceeding is the State. Mr. Dickerson doesn't have to prove anything, he doesn't have to—he doesn't have to present any evidence, he has no obligation whatsoever. Would you have any problem following that presumption?

A. No sir.

....

Q. ... I would tell you that if the jury were to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that there were aggravating circumstances, that does not mean that that jury has to return a death sentence, only that it is a potential sentence; do you understand that?

A. Yes, sir.

Q. Because the jury would have the right, notwithstanding the conclusion of aggravating circumstances to find that the appropriate sentence would be life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. I would give you an instruction as to that. You could make that consideration, as well; is that correct?

A. Yes, sir.

[395 S.C. 110] When questioned by Dickerson, Juror 370 made the following statements:

Q. Let me just kind of start off with, what is your opinion of the death penalty?

A. I am—I think it needs to be there but there are certain situations that—I mean, I am not too up-to-date on this whole system but I feel like a lot of people get the death penalty when it is not deserved. People die all the time, I mean get put to death, when they're innocent. So—I don't know. It's a big thing.

....

Q. In those types of situations, now that you know what the term “murder” is, not accident, self-defense, manslaughter or insanity, would you always automatically vote for [the death penalty] if the person who did it meant to do it and they had the right person?

....

A. I would still have to hear all of the evidence, everything behind it.

Q. Okay.

A. When, how, where, all that stuff.

Q. Okay. So even if there is no accident, self-defense, manslaughter, insanity, the State has proved it beyond a reasonable doubt, did it, meant to do it and they had the right person; in those cases you're not going to automatically vote for the death penalty?

A. I guess—I guess I would. If it was absolute, then definitely.

Q. When you say “absolutely”, you mean—

A. Exactly what you just said, all those.

However, in response to further questioning by Dickerson, Juror 370 stated, “That's why—all those situations, like who he is, like—that kinds of stuff is what I'd want to hear before I just say ‘give them the death penalty.’ ” He then said he would “certainly” listen to mitigating evidence presented by the defense.

Before turning Juror 370 over to the State, Dickerson pressed the juror on his belief regarding the defendant's burden of proof during the sentencing phase of a capital trial:

[395 S.C. 111] Q. ... [W]ould you expect the defendant or his attorney to present something to you to give you a reason not to vote for death? To kind of convince you, ‘Okay, I found him guilty of murder, I've heard all this other stuff but I[’]m for death.' Would you expect the defense to show, ‘you need to show me stuff that would convince me otherwise, to vote for life’?

A. (No verbal response).

Q. Is that what you're telling me?

[716 S.E.2d 901]

A. I—yeah, isn't that what you've got to do?

....

Q. And all that bad stuff in there and they just argue for mercy, that is not something that is going to persuade you?

A. No.

Q. So you would be looking at the defense to kind of convince you that a death penalty wasn't the right sentence?

A. Yeah. Just to represent him, show something—I mean, something had to happen.

During rehabilitation, the State informed Juror 370 that the judge would in fact instruct him that it was improper to hold a defendant's decision to not present any evidence against him. The following exchange then occurred:

Q. Because just a minute ago you were saying that you would expect the defendant to put something up.

A. Well, I mean—I thought that was kind of how it worked. But if—(pause).

Q. Well, the Judge would tell you that it works...

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42 practice notes
  • Moore v. Stirling, 28088
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...Moore notes, however, that the current proportionality procedure was previously called into question by this Court in State v. Dickerson, 395 S.C. 101, 716 S.E.2d 895 (2011). In Dickerson, the defendant asserted to the circuit court that South Carolina's proportionality review was deficient......
  • Moore v. Stirling, Appellate Case No. 2020-001519
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...notes, however, that the current proportionality procedure was previously called into question by this Court in State v. Dickerson , 395 S.C. 101, 716 S.E.2d 895 (2011). In Dickerson , the defendant asserted to the circuit court that South Carolina's proportionality review was deficient bec......
  • State v. Carr, No. 90,044.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • July 25, 2014
    ...impact testimony are split. Three jurisdictions whose cases are cited by both parties do not allow such testimony. See State v. Dickerson, 395 S.C. 101, 122–23, 716 S.E.2d 895 (2011) (testimony that defendant's family had already lost two members to homicide; suffering would be exacerbated ......
  • State v. Burdette, Appellate Case No. 2017-001990
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 31, 2019
    ...is deemed to exist because the lesser offense is "one whose elements are wholly contained within the crime charged." State v. Dickerson , 395 S.C. 101, 118, 716 S.E.2d 895, 904 (2011) (citing State v. Northcutt , 372 S.C. 207, 215, 641 S.E.2d 873, 877 (2007) ). This is known as the "element......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
42 cases
  • Moore v. Stirling, 28088
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...Moore notes, however, that the current proportionality procedure was previously called into question by this Court in State v. Dickerson, 395 S.C. 101, 716 S.E.2d 895 (2011). In Dickerson, the defendant asserted to the circuit court that South Carolina's proportionality review was deficient......
  • Moore v. Stirling, Appellate Case No. 2020-001519
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...notes, however, that the current proportionality procedure was previously called into question by this Court in State v. Dickerson , 395 S.C. 101, 716 S.E.2d 895 (2011). In Dickerson , the defendant asserted to the circuit court that South Carolina's proportionality review was deficient bec......
  • State v. Carr, No. 90,044.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • July 25, 2014
    ...impact testimony are split. Three jurisdictions whose cases are cited by both parties do not allow such testimony. See State v. Dickerson, 395 S.C. 101, 122–23, 716 S.E.2d 895 (2011) (testimony that defendant's family had already lost two members to homicide; suffering would be exacerbated ......
  • State v. Burdette, Appellate Case No. 2017-001990
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • July 31, 2019
    ...is deemed to exist because the lesser offense is "one whose elements are wholly contained within the crime charged." State v. Dickerson , 395 S.C. 101, 118, 716 S.E.2d 895, 904 (2011) (citing State v. Northcutt , 372 S.C. 207, 215, 641 S.E.2d 873, 877 (2007) ). This is known as the "element......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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