The State v. Spears, No. 4843.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtGEATHERS, J.
Docket NumberNo. 4843.
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent,v.Phillip Lee SPEARS, Appellant.
Decision Date15 June 2011

393 S.C. 466
713 S.E.2d 324

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Phillip Lee SPEARS, Appellant.

No. 4843.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard March 10, 2011.Decided June 15, 2011.


[713 S.E.2d 327]

Assistant Appellate Defender M. Celia Robinson and Appellate Defender Breen R. Stevens, of Columbia, for Appellant.Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott and Assistant Attorney General A. West Lee, of Columbia; and Solicitor David M. Pascoe, Jr., of Summerville, for Respondent.GEATHERS, J.

Phillip Lee Spears appeals his convictions for armed robbery, kidnapping, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Spears argues the trial court erred in: (1) denying his motion to sever his case from his codefendant's case prior to trial; (2) denying his motion to suppress trial testimony and evidence of a gun found in the room where Spears was taken into custody; (3) denying his motion to suppress the in-court identifications of both defendants on the ground that the out-of-court identification process was unduly suggestive; (4) denying his motion to suppress evidence that Spears submits was obtained without a valid search warrant and without valid consent; and (5) denying his motion for a mistrial, which was based on multiple grounds. We affirm.

FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On November 6, 2006, two men entered Bell's Bait and Tackle Shop in Elloree, South Carolina (also known as, and hereinafter, the Wagon Wheel). The men held the store owner and several of his employees 1 on the floor at gunpoint while they proceeded to rob the store. The robbers absconded with over $200 in cash, approximately $580 in rolled coins, and several packs of Newport cigarettes.

James Bourgeois (the owner of the Wagon Wheel) called 911, and the police arrived within ten minutes. Natasha Rivers, a store employee, was able to provide the police with a detailed description of both suspects. As a result of her description, police developed Phillip Spears as a suspect. Later that same day, approximately four hours after the robbery, police showed Rivers a photo line-up and she immediately identified Spears. Rivers testified she was one hundred percent certain that Spears was the same gunman who first entered the Wagon Wheel that

[713 S.E.2d 328]

morning. Around six-thirty or seven o'clock on the evening of the robbery, Rivers was shown a second photo line-up. Rivers said she saw the second line-up on a computer screen at the sheriff's office. Rivers immediately pointed to Spears's codefendant, Titus Bantan, although she noted Bantan's hair was different in the photo line-up than it had been when she saw him that morning.

The police investigation led them to the home of Spears's ex-girlfriend, Tanesha Adams. Through Adams, police learned that prior to the robbery Spears had called Adams at 5:00 a.m. and again at 7:00 a.m. to ask her whether she knew if the Wagon Wheel had video cameras. Adams testified she told Spears she did not know. While the police were still present, Spears called Adams again. Adams testified Spears admitted to her over the telephone that he robbed the Wagon Wheel that morning.

During the same police visit, Adams's brother told police about a mobile home in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he said Spears sometimes stayed. Adams's brother volunteered to show police the mobile home. Police arrived at 140 Charlotte Circle in Orangeburg armed with an arrest warrant for Spears. The police entered with their guns drawn and ordered an unknown suspect to back down the hallway with his hands up. After the suspect was detained, the police identified him as Bantan, not Spears. Officer Williams stated, “Initially [Bantan] was handcuffed. Once we believed that he was going to sign the permission to search, of course he was unhandcuffed....” Although Bantan initially consented to a search of the mobile home, Bantan later withdrew his consent after the police located items consistent with the robbery.

The officers then left and obtained a search warrant, which they executed at 9:00 p.m. on the evening of the robbery. They recovered Timberland boots and army fatigue style pants that matched the description of the clothing worn by one of the robbers, several packs of Newport cigarettes, $260 in twenty dollar bills, and a “Coinstar” receipt showing $300 in coins that had been exchanged for cash at a nearby Bi–Lo a few hours after the robbery. Even though the trial court noted Bantan's initial consent was invalid, the trial court ruled all the evidence obtained through the search was admissible via the doctrine of inevitable discovery.

Bantan and Spears were tried together for the Wagon Wheel robbery. A jury convicted both defendants on all counts. The trial court sentenced Spears to thirty years' imprisonment for kidnapping, thirty years' imprisonment for armed robbery, and five years' imprisonment for possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, to run concurrently. This appeal followed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

“In criminal cases, the appellate court sits to review errors of law only.” State v. Baccus, 367 S.C. 41, 48, 625 S.E.2d 216, 220 (2006).

I. Motion to Sever

Spears filed a motion in limine to sever his case from that of his codefendant, Titus Bantan, and the trial court denied Spears's motion. Specifically, the trial court noted that mutually antagonistic defenses do not mandate separate trials. On appeal, Spears argues severance was required because he was forced to defend himself against the prosecution and against Bantan, and this denied him the specific right to a fair trial.

“A motion for severance is addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court.” State v. Simmons, 352 S.C. 342, 350, 573 S.E.2d 856, 860 (Ct.App.2002). “The trial court's ruling will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of that discretion.” State v. Rice, 368 S.C. 610, 613, 629 S.E.2d 393, 394 (Ct.App.2006). “An abuse of discretion occurs when a trial court's decision is unsupported by the evidence or controlled by an error of law.” Id. at 613, 629 S.E.2d at 395.

“Where the offenses charged in separate indictments are of the same general nature involving connected transactions closely related in kind, place and character, the trial judge has the power, in his discretion, to order the indictments tried together

[713 S.E.2d 329]

if the defendant's substantive rights would not be prejudiced.” Simmons, 352 S.C. at 350, 573 S.E.2d at 860. “Offenses are considered to be of the same general nature where they are interconnected.” State v. Jones, 325 S.C. 310, 315, 479 S.E.2d 517, 519 (Ct.App.1996). “Conversely, offenses which are of the same nature, but which do not arise out of a single chain of circumstances and are not provable by the same evidence may not properly be tried together.” Id.

“A severance should be granted only when there is a serious risk that a joint trial would compromise a specific trial right of a codefendant or prevent the jury from making a reliable judgment about a codefendant's guilt.” State v. Walker, 366 S.C. 643, 657, 623 S.E.2d 122, 129 (Ct.App.2005) (emphasis added). An example of a specific trial right that may be prejudiced from a joint trial is the constitutional right to cross-examination when one codefendant's confession expressly implicates another codefendant but the confessor does not take the witness stand. Bruton v. United States, 391 U.S. 123, 135–37, 88 S.Ct. 1620, 20 L.Ed.2d 476 (1968).

“A defendant who alleges he was improperly tried jointly must show prejudice before an appellate court will reverse his conviction.” State v. Halcomb, 382 S.C. 432, 440, 676 S.E.2d 149, 153 (Ct.App.2009). “The rule allowing joint trials is not impugned simply because the codefendants may present evidence accusing each other of the crime.” Id. “A proper cautionary instruction may help protect the individual rights of each defendant and ensure that no prejudice results from a joint trial.” State v. Stuckey, 347 S.C. 484, 497, 556 S.E.2d 403, 409 (Ct.App.2001) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

We affirm the trial court's denial of a severance because there was no abuse of discretion; the ruling was supported by the evidence and not affected by an error of law. Rice, 368 S.C. at 613, 629 S.E.2d at 395. The evidence against Spears and Bantan was interconnected. Both defendants were charged with an armed robbery that occurred at the Wagon Wheel on the morning of November 6, 2006. Both defendants were charged with kidnapping the same victims during the robbery. Both defendants were charged with possession of a firearm during the commission of these crimes. Finally, Spears's ex-girlfriend, Tanesha Adams, and Adams's brother led police to Bantan's mobile home, which contained evidence corresponding to the items victims testified were stolen from the Wagon Wheel.

Furthermore, no specific trial right was prejudiced by the joinder of these codefendants' trials. See Bruton, 391 U.S. at 135–37, 88 S.Ct. 1620 (finding a specific trial right was prejudiced and that prejudice could not be remedied with a curative instruction when one codefendant expressly implicated the other codefendant in his oral confession but refused to take the witness stand). Although the State presented evidence that Spears confessed to committing the crime to Adams over the telephone, there was no evidence Spears implicated Bantan during the call. In addition, Bantan did not implicate Spears at any point during the police investigation. Therefore, we hold the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Spears's motion for a severance.

Spears also argues severance was warranted because he suffered prejudice during Bantan's closing argument, which emphasized the plethora of evidence against Spears in contrast to the scant evidence against Bantan. We disagree. South Carolina law provides that mutually antagonistic defenses, or the...

To continue reading

Request your trial
40 practice notes
  • State v. Jenkins, No. 4958.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 20, 2012
    ...basis to keep that evidence from the jury in order to ensure the fairness of the trial proceedings.’ ” [727 S.E.2d 769]State v. Spears, 393 S.C. 466, 482, 713 S.E.2d 324, 332 (Ct.App.2011) (quoting Nix, 467 U.S. at 447, 104 S.Ct. 2501). Therefore, the inevitable discovery doctrine represent......
  • State v. Prather, Appellate Case No. 2014-001500
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 6, 2017
    ...grounds, [the appellate court] applies a deferential standard of review and will reverse if there is clear error."); State v. Spears , 393 S.C. 466, 482, 713 S.E.2d 324, 332 (Ct. App. 2011) (citing Nix v. Williams , 467 U.S. 431, 444, 104 S.Ct. 2501, 81 L.Ed.2d 377 (1984) ) (stating that th......
  • State v. Moore, Opinion No. 5512.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 30, 2017
    ...sustaining ground, I find the inevitable discovery doctrine applies to the question of ownership of the flip phone. See State v. Spears , 393 S.C. 466, 482, 713 S.E.2d 324, 332 (Ct. App. 2011) ("The inevitable discovery doctrine, one exception to the exclusionary rule, states that if the pr......
  • State v. Jenkins, Opinion No. 4958
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 28, 2012
    ...is no rational basis to keep that evidence from the jury in order to ensure the fairness of the trial proceedings.'" State v. Spears, 393 S.C. 466, 482, 713 S.E.2d 324, 332 (Ct. App. 2011) (quoting Nix, 467 U.S. at 447). Therefore, the inevitable discovery doctrine represents an important p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
40 cases
  • State v. Jenkins, No. 4958.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 20, 2012
    ...basis to keep that evidence from the jury in order to ensure the fairness of the trial proceedings.’ ” [727 S.E.2d 769]State v. Spears, 393 S.C. 466, 482, 713 S.E.2d 324, 332 (Ct.App.2011) (quoting Nix, 467 U.S. at 447, 104 S.Ct. 2501). Therefore, the inevitable discovery doctrine represent......
  • State v. Prather, Appellate Case No. 2014-001500
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 6, 2017
    ...grounds, [the appellate court] applies a deferential standard of review and will reverse if there is clear error."); State v. Spears , 393 S.C. 466, 482, 713 S.E.2d 324, 332 (Ct. App. 2011) (citing Nix v. Williams , 467 U.S. 431, 444, 104 S.Ct. 2501, 81 L.Ed.2d 377 (1984) ) (stating that th......
  • State v. Moore, Opinion No. 5512.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 30, 2017
    ...sustaining ground, I find the inevitable discovery doctrine applies to the question of ownership of the flip phone. See State v. Spears , 393 S.C. 466, 482, 713 S.E.2d 324, 332 (Ct. App. 2011) ("The inevitable discovery doctrine, one exception to the exclusionary rule, states that if the pr......
  • State v. Jenkins, Opinion No. 4958
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • March 28, 2012
    ...is no rational basis to keep that evidence from the jury in order to ensure the fairness of the trial proceedings.'" State v. Spears, 393 S.C. 466, 482, 713 S.E.2d 324, 332 (Ct. App. 2011) (quoting Nix, 467 U.S. at 447). Therefore, the inevitable discovery doctrine represents an important p......
  • 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