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The Gruesome Murder Of Mekole Harris

Updated: May 24, 2023


Posted by Travis Uresk | Dec. 11th, 2022 | Murder |


In April 2008, two households in Greenville, South Carolina, went through the horrifying experience of finding human body parts on their front porch. In this case, a severed hand and foot parts were wrapped inside a black plastic bag and placed right on top of the porch.

A note accompanied both bags, which threatened someone by the name of Grace and asked her to pay her dues. Since the receivers knew nothing about Grace or the parts, they immediately contacted the police, who launched their investigation. Using the fingerprint from the severed hands, the police identified the Victim as Mekole Harris.


The note that was left on the windshield

According to reports, Mekole Harris went missing from a Rutherford Road staffing agency and was never seen alive since then. Her last known address was at a boarding house in Greenville, although the homeowners had no idea why anyone would want to harm Mekole in such a horrific way. Ultimately, once the police were led to Mekole's body by one of the perpetrators, they noticed that she had a bag on her head.


Mekole Harris

At the same time, an autopsy determined that the Victim was strangled to death before being dismembered.

The police found the initial investigation into Mekole's murder quite challenging as the crime scenes did not provide a lot of leads to follow. Detectives tried their best to canvas the area around the houses where the human remains were found and even hunted for witnesses but to no avail.

They also sat down for several interviews with Mekole's close acquaintances, but there were no names that immediately came up as a suspect.

Law enforcement officials soon discovered that Mekole was a recovering drug addict. Although she tried her best to remain clean, she had been known to relapse into the habit, making detectives wonder if that somehow led to her death. The police dug deep into the Victim's life, but this, too, led to a dead-end, and investigators found themselves back on square one.

With no other avenue left, the police finally turned their attention toward the severed limbs and the threatening note that accompanied them. This led to a massive breakthrough as, through their investigation, the cops learned that the "Grace" on the note was a woman who had a three-way relationship with married couple Clarence and Carman Jenkins.


Clarence Williams Jenkins

Interestingly, since then, the couple had been blackmailing Grace to make her pay a sum of $10000, which she allegedly owed.

With a promising lead, the police brought the Jenkins in for questioning and even thoroughly searched their house. At the Jenkins residence, authorities found more threatening notes of the exact nature and blood splatters, which were determined to be Mekole Harris's.

When put under brutal interrogation, Carman cracked and confessed to the slaying before leading the police to the Victim's body. With concrete evidence, the police could finally charge Carman and Clarence with murder.

When produced in court, Clarence pled not guilty, but Carman decided to testify against her husband. Her testimony proved invaluable, and ultimately, Clarence was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole in 2008. The same year, Carman pled guilty to murder and was sentenced to 50 years in prison.


Carman Jenkins

In 2013, Carman attempted to get her sentence reduced, and a judge lessened her term to 40 years. Clarence remains incarcerated at the Perry Correctional Institution in Pelzer, South Carolina, while Carman spends her days behind bars at the Leath Correctional Institution in Greenwood, South Carolina. Besides, according to prison records, Carman will be eligible for release in 2048.


"I would sit Clarence down, and I would say, Clarence, I'm going to stuff you down in a food processor and press liquefy, and I'm going to pour you down a toilet. Because, that is where you belong. ~ Lt. Joe Kenda



The Greenville Journal

March 29th 2012


Carman Major Jenkins

Carman Major Jenkins was an honor student, the drum major for her high school band, and somebody who was trusted with the keys to Buncombe Street United Methodist Church.

On Tuesday, the 24-year-old woman became a convicted murderer after she pleaded guilty to her part in the 2008 death of Mekole Harris, whose severed feet and hands were left at two residences in the Cleveland Street area.


Her defense attorney and a psychologist blamed the change on her husband, Clarence Jenkins, a man they said was violent, controlled her every move, and isolated her from her family.

She was sentenced to 50 years in prison.


Before handing down the sentence, Judge Ned Miller said that her cooperation with authorities and her testimony in Clarence Jenkins' trial, which is scheduled for April 9, could lead to a reduced sentence.


Both husband and Wife had faced the death penalty, but Carman Jenkins was spared after she led authorities to Harris' remains.

During the guilty plea, her attorney said that the death penalty had also been dropped against Clarence Jenkins. Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor Walt Wilkins declined to comment on that, citing a gag order Miller had previously placed on the case.


Harris's sister, Lisa Perry, told the judge the family wanted Jenkins to be sentenced to life in prison. She said her mother, Jessie Harris, died in 2010 of a massive stroke.

“She grieved herself to death," she said. She said that her sister was a loving person who treated everyone as if they were friends, including the Jenkins.

Wilkins said the Jenkins’ killed and dismembered Harris to send a message to another woman, a former roommate who had a relationship with them. Authorities said the couple claimed the woman owed them $10,000.


Wilkins said Harris was kidnapped from Labor Finders, a staffing agency on Rutherford Road.


She was killed on April 6, and her feet and hands were left at two residences with a note that said, "Grace, this is your last warning. This is what happens when somebody doesn't follow our instructions," Wilkins said.


Wilkins said that copies of the threatening notes were found in the Jenkins' residence, and DNA tests confirmed Harris' blood was found in the house and in the couple's van.

Forensic psychologist Dr. David Price told judge Carman Jenkins suffered from "Stockholm Syndrome," a condition where a person empathizes with the person controlling them and helps the controller's causes.

He compared Carman Jenkins to Patty Hearst, the daughter of a media mogul who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army, the American militant group that held her captive.


“This woman could not think for herself,” Price said of Carman Jenkins.

Beverly Major, Carman Jenkins' mother, said her daughter was a good person who went on mission trips to work on people's homes in South Carolina and the Bahamas.

While on a mission trip to the Bahamas, her daughter taught children how to play basketball and to read, she said.

“I love her, and I'm here for her," her mother said.

David Stubbs, director of education and programs at Buncombe Street United Methodist Church, said Jenkins played basketball for the church because her church didn’t have a team for her age group.


He said she helped keep the gym open on Saturdays and eventually had a key to every part of the church. She babysat the children of church members and went on youth mission trips.


She had plans to go to college, earn a business degree and open her own restaurant, said Stubbs, who said he had lost touch with her after she was forced to quit Spartanburg Methodist College when her mother became ill and she met her husband.


“This is not Carman. This is not the girl I knew,” Stubbs said.



STATE v. JENKINS


Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

The STATE, Respondent, v. Clarence Williams JENKINS, Appellant.

Appellate Case No. 2012–211588.

Decided: May 21, 2014


Appellate Defender Susan Barber Hackett, of Columbia, for Appellant. Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Senior Assistant Attorney General Melody Jane Brown, all of Columbia; and Solicitor William Walter Wilkins, III, of Greenville, for Respondent.


Appellant Clarence Williams Jenkins seeks a review of his convictions for kidnapping and murder. The Appellant argues the trial court's refusal to provide the jury with the circumstantial evidence instruction quoted in State v. Edwards1 violated his right to require the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Appellant also challenges the trial court's failure to strike the testimony of the State's fingerprint expert or, in the alternative, to grant a mistrial, arguing the prosecution withheld evidence material to the testimony in question. We affirm.


FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On the morning of April 7, 2008, Sue Bostic discovered a garbage bag with unknown contents sitting on her front porch and a threatening note under the windshield wiper of her automobile.2Bostic contacted the Greenville City Police Department, and Officer Scott Odom responded to the call. Officer Amber Allen also arrived at the scene and spoke with Bostic while Officer Odom took the garbage bag to the back of his vehicle to inspect the bag's contents. Officer Odom discovered a severed human foot and hand and several severed toes. Officer Michael Petersen, who was employed with the forensic division of the Greenville County Department of Public Safety, then arrived to assist in processing the crime scene and collecting the evidence. Officers Allen and Petersen were informed that a similar note and garbage bag containing severed body parts had been left at the residence of Judon Burnside. They later proceeded to this residence to collect the evidence.


Officer Petersen took the garbage bags and their contents to the morgue and rolled fingerprint impressions from the severed hands. Captain Jackie Kellet of the forensic division of the Greenville County Department of Public Safety examined the fingerprints processed by Officer Petersen and matched them to fingerprints on file for Mekole Harris (Victim).


On April 10, 2008, police arrested the Appellant and his Wife, Carmen Jenkins (Wife), for the murder of the Victim. On November 18, 2008, the Greenville County Grand Jury indicted the Appellant for murder. In December 2008, the State filed a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty against the Appellant and his Wife. In September 2009, the wife advised investigators of the location of the Victim's remains in exchange for the State's withdrawal of its Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty against the wife.


On March 9, 2011, the wife entered into a plea agreement with the State, requiring her truthful testimony in the Appellant's trial in exchange for the State's subsequent request for a reduction in the wife's sentence. On September 13, 2011, the Grand Jury indicted the Appellant for the kidnapping of the Victim. On March 27, 2012, the wife pled guilty to the murder of the Victim and was sentenced to fifty years of imprisonment. On this same day, the State withdrew its Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty against the Appellant.


The Appellant's trial took place on April 9 through 13, 2012. Captain Kellet, who had matched the fingerprints from the severed hands to the Victim's fingerprints, was qualified as an expert in fingerprint analysis, and she explained the process she went through in identifying the Victim's fingerprints. The first step was entering the unknown fingerprints into the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS), a computerized database maintained by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). She explained that AFIS "sends back a list of respondents," and in this case, "we ask for the top 25 people." Here, the Victim's "State ID number"3was the first number on the list of respondents. Captain Kellet then pulled a fingerprint card for the Victim from her agency's records and visually compared, point by point, the Victim's prints to the unknown prints. Once she determined the known and unknown fingerprints matched, she felt no need to examine any other fingerprints from the AFIS list of respondents.


The State also presented the testimony of the wife, who testified about the Appellant's alleged plan to intimidate a former housemate, Grace Davis, into returning to their home and continuing to live with them. According to his wife, during the time Davis lived with the Appellant and his Wife, Davis developed an intimate relationship with both of them.


Eventually, the Department of Social Services removed Davis's children from the home and notified her that she could not regain custody of her children as long as she was living with the Appellant and Wife. Therefore, Davis left the home. A few days later, the Appellant told Wife that Davis "needed to come back to [their] relationship because she was a partner in [their] relationship" and "she knew too much about the organization that he was in." The Appellant also told his wife, "the organization would kill all of [them] if she didn't come back." The wife testified that she had never heard about this organization until that day.

The Appellant began executing his plan to intimidate Davis by mailing threatening letters to her and to members of her family. Next, on the evening of Friday, April 4, 2008, the Appellant brought home the Victim, a prostitute, and handcuffed her to a bed. The Appellant told the Victim that he and his wife were police officers and that Victim was "under arrest for prostitution and possession of crack." The Appellant also told Victim that the only way she would get out of those charges was for her to help the Appellant and Wife with a "case." The "case" Appellant referenced was his plan to intimidate Davis into returning to their home.


After Victim agreed to cooperate, the Appellant removed the handcuffs. The Appellant wrote out a script for the Victim to read over a telephone to members of Davis's family. The Appellant then handcuffed the Victim again and gave the script to her to memorize. Sometime around midnight, the Appellant, Wife, and Victim went to a pay telephone at a nearby gasoline station, and the Appellant dialed the telephone numbers for Davis's mother, Judon Burnside, and Davis's aunt, Sue Bostic. During each telephone call, Victim recited the material from the script written by the Appellant. The Appellant and his Wife then took Victim back to their home, and the Appellant handcuffed Victim to a chair for the remainder of the day on Saturday.


On Saturday night, Appellant crushed up "some Tylenol PM and some other sleeping medicine," mixed it into some ice cream and gave it to Victim. However, Victim only ate a small amount of the ice cream. On the next day, Sunday, April 6, 2008, the Appellant ordered his wife to kill the Victim, who was still handcuffed to the chair. The wife attempted to strangle Victim with a cable cord, but as the Victim struggled against Wife, the wife lost control of the cord. The Appellant then tied the cord to the back of the chair, placed a plastic bag over Victim's head, and suffocated her.


The Appellant and his Wife took Victim's body to the bathroom and placed her body in the shower. Later that day, the Appellant dismembered Victim's body, forcing his wife to participate, and placed the dismembered parts in the couple's freezer. The Appellant and his Wife disposed of Victim's body near a golf course on Paris Mountain and returned to their residence, where the Appellant placed the dismembered parts into two separate garbage bags.


After midnight, the Appellant and his Wife went to Bostic's apartment. Appellant "dropped [Wife] off right at the entrance of the apartments․" Wife took one of the garbage bags and threw it onto Bostic's front porch. The wife then left a threatening letter on the windshield of Bostic's car. Next, the Appellant drove his Wife to Burnside's residence. The wife placed a second threatening letter in Burnside's mailbox and placed the second garbage bag on Burnside's front porch.


Robin Taylor, a SLED employee, also testified at the Appellant's trial. Taylor described the DNA analysis she performed on a swab from the severed hand. Taylor matched the DNA from this swab to the DNA from swabs of blood collected from (1) a wall near the ceiling in a bathroom at Appellant's residence; (2) a wall on the right side of the medicine cabinet in Appellant's bathroom; (3) a latex glove found on the floor of Wife's van; and (4) the p-trap of the shower drain in Appellant's bathroom.


The jurors deliberated for over four hours. The foreperson then sent a note to the trial court indicating the jurors were unable to reach a unanimous decision on one of the charges against the Appellant. The trial court sent the members of the jury home for the night. The next morning, the trial court provided the jury with an Allen instruction before they resumed their deliberations. A little over one hour later, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on both charges against the Appellant. The trial court sentenced the Appellant to life in prison. This appeal followed.


ISSUES ON APPEAL

1. Did the trial court's refusal to provide the jury with the circumstantial evidence instruction quoted in State v. Edwards violate the Appellant's right to require the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?


2. Did the trial court err in failing to strike the testimony of Captain Kellet, the State's fingerprint expert, or, in the alternative, to grant a mistrial, where the Appellant's counsel did not receive a copy of Captain Kellet's file prior to trial?


3. Did the trial court err in declining to grant the Appellant enough recess time to hire an expert to review Captain Kellet's file?

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). Thus, an appellate court is bound by the circuit court's factual findings unless they are clearly erroneous. Id.


LAW/ANALYSIS

I. Jury Instruction

The Appellant maintains the trial court's rejection of his proposed circumstantial evidence instruction, based on the instruction approved in State v. Edwards,6 violated his right to require the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The Appellant argues the instruction given confused the jury regarding how to evaluate circumstantial evidence. We find no reversible error.


“In reviewing jury charges for error, this Court considers the trial court's jury charge as a whole and in light of the evidence and issues presented at trial." State v. Logan, 405 S.C. 83, 90, 747 S.E.2d 444, 448 (2013) (citation omitted). "A jury charge is correct if, when read as a whole, the charge adequately covers the law. Id. at 90–91, 747 S.E.2d at 448. "A jury charge that is substantially correct and covers the law does not require reversal." Id. (citation and quotation marks omitted). "Jury instructions should be considered as a whole, and if, as a whole, they are free from error, any isolated portions which may be misleading do not constitute reversible error." Id. at 94 n. 8, 747 S.E.2d at 449 n. 8. (citation omitted). "Generally, the trial judge is required to charge only the current and correct law of South Carolina." State v. Brown, 362 S.C. 258, 261, 607 S.E.2d 93, 95 (Ct.App.2004). "To warrant reversal, a trial judge's refusal to give a requested jury charge must be both erroneous and prejudicial to the defendant." Id. at 262, 607 S.E.2d at 95.


In Edwards, our supreme court quoted the circumstantial evidence standard “to be charged for use by the jury in its deliberation.” 298 S.C. at 275, 379 S.E.2d at 889.

Under this test, the jury may not convict unless:


Every circumstance relied upon by the State be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, and ․ all of the circumstances so proven be consistent with each other and, taken together, point conclusively to the guilt of the accused to the exclusion of every other reasonable hypothesis. It is not sufficient that they create a probability, though a strong one. If assuming them to be true, they may be accounted for upon any reasonable hypothesis which does not include the guilt of the accused; the proof has failed.

Id. (emphasis added) (quoting State v. Littlejohn, 228 S.C. 324, 328, 89 S.E.2d 924, 926 (1955)). However, in State v. Grippon, the court recommended that once a proper reasonable doubt instruction is given, the following instruction be given:




There are two types of evidence that are generally presented during a trial—direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is the testimony of a person who asserts or claims to have actual knowledge of a fact, such as an eyewitness. Circumstantial evidence is proof of a chain of facts and circumstances indicating the existence of a fact. The law makes absolutely no distinction between the weight or value to be given to either direct or circumstantial evidence. Nor is a greater degree of certainty required of circumstantial evidence than of direct evidence. You should weigh all the evidence in the case. After weighing all the evidence, if you are not convinced of the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, you must find [the defendant] not guilty.

327 S.C. 79, 83–84, 489 S.E.2d 462, 464 (1997).


In State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 588, 597, 606 S.E.2d 475, 480 (2004), our supreme court held that in cases relying, in whole or in part, on circumstantial evidence, South Carolina courts must use the jury charge recommended in Grippon. Cherry also eliminated the “reasonable hypothesis” language found in the Edwards instruction. Cherry, 361 S.C. at 601, 606 S.E.2d at 482 (“[T]he reasonable hypothesis charge merely serves to confuse juries by leading them to believe that the standard for measuring circumstantial evidence is different than that for measuring direct evidence when, in fact, it is not.”). Notably, other language from the Edwards instruction was recently reaffirmed, slightly modified, and recommended in future jury instructions. See State v. Logan, 405 S.C. 83, 99, 747 S.E.2d 444, 452 (2013) (“[T]o the extent the State relies on circumstantial evidence, all of the circumstances must be consistent with each other, and when taken together, point conclusively to the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt․ If these circumstances merely portray the defendant's behavior as suspicious, the proof has failed.”) (emphases added).


In Logan, the court set forth the following instruction to be given to the jury, in addition to a proper reasonable doubt instruction, when so requested by a defendant:

There are two types of evidence that are generally presented during a trial—direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence directly proves the existence of a fact and does not require a deduction. Circumstantial evidence is proof of a chain of facts and circumstances indicating the existence of a fact.


Crimes may be proven by circumstantial evidence. The law makes no distinction between the weight or value to be given to either direct or circumstantial evidence; however, to the extent the State relies on circumstantial evidence, all of the circumstances must be consistent with each other and, when taken together, point conclusively to the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt. If these circumstances merely portray the defendant's behavior as suspicious, the proof has failed.


The State has the burden of proving the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This burden rests with the State regardless of whether the State relies on direct evidence, circumstantial evidence, or some combination of the two.


Id. at 99, 747 S.E.2d at 452 (emphases added). The court hastened to add: “This holding does not prevent the trial court from issuing the circumstantial evidence charge provided in Grippon and Cherry. However, trial courts may not exclusively rely on that charge over a defendant's objection.” Id. at 100, 747 S.E.2d at 452–53. Nonetheless, the Logan court ultimately concluded any error in the trial court's jury instructions was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the trial court “clearly instructed the jury regarding the reasonable doubt burden of proof” and its jury instruction, “as a whole, properly conveyed the applicable law.” Logan, 405 S.C. at 94 n .8, 747 S.E.2d at 449 n. 8. (citations omitted).

In the instant case, the trial court gave the following jury instruction on circumstantial evidence:


Now, there are two types of evidence that are generally presented during a trial. And they are known as direct evidence and circumstantial evidence. Direct evidence is the testimony of a person who claims to have actual knowledge of a fact, such as an eyewitness [sic]. It is evidence that immediately establishes the main fact sought to be proven. Circumstantial evidence is proof of a chain of facts and circumstances indicating the existence of the main fact. It is evidence that immediately establishes collateral facts from which the main fact may be inferred. Circumstantial evidence is based on inference and not on personal knowledge or observation. The law makes absolutely no distinction between the weight or value to be given to either direct or circumstantial evidence. Nor is a greater degree of certainty required of circumstantial evidence than of direct evidence. You should weigh all of the evidence in the case. After weighing all of the evidence, if you are not convinced of the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, then you should find the defendant not guilty.


(emphasis added). This instruction is virtually identical to the Grippon instruction. 327 S.C. at 83–84, 489 S.E.2d at 464.


The State argues that at the time of the Appellant's trial, the "relevant precedent dictated that only the Grippon charge be used." The State points out that the Logan opinion was published while the appeal, in this case, was pending. In response, the Appellant maintains that Logan applies retroactively to his trial, citing State v. Belcher, 385 S.C. 597, 612–13, 685 S.E.2d 802, 810 (2009) and Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314, 328 (1987), for the proposition that a new rule for the conduct of criminal prosecutions must be applied retroactively to all cases pending on direct review or not yet final. We agree that Griffith requires the application of Logan to cases pending on appeal at the time the Logan opinion was published. Nevertheless, this court is constrained to affirm the trial court's denial of the Appellant's request to give the Edwards instruction for two reasons.


First, the Appellant's proposed instruction contains the following language: "[Y]ou may not convict a defendant unless ․ all of the circumstances ․, taken together, point conclusively to the guilt of the accused to the exclusion of every other reasonable hypothesis." Our supreme court has cautioned against using this language injury instruction. See Logan, 405 S.C. at 98, 747 S.E .2d at 451–52 ("[R]equiring a jury to inquire as to whether there is any other reasonable explanation other than the defendant's guilt comes perilously close to shifting the burden of proof from the State to the defendant." (citation omitted)).


Second, any error in the omission of certain language from the Logan instruction was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because the trial court's instruction, as a whole, properly conveyed the applicable law. The trial court provided the following instruction as to the State's burden of proof:


Now, Clarence Jenkins has pled not guilty to these indictments. And that plea puts the burden on the State to provide [sic] the defendant guilty. A person charged with committing a criminal offense in South Carolina is never required to prove themselves innocent. And I charge you that it is a cardinal and important rule of law that a defendant in a criminal trial will always be presumed to be innocent of the crime for which an indictment has been issued unless and until guilt has been proven by evidence satisfying you of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


Now, reasonable doubt is the kind of doubt which would cause a reasonable person to hesitate to act. And reasonable doubt may arise from the evidence which is in the case or from the lack or absence of evidence in the case. And you, the jury, must determine whether or not reasonable doubt exists as to the guilt of this defendant. The State has the burden of proving each and every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. And any reasonable doubt that you may have in your deliberations should be resolved in favor of the defendant.

We find this reasonable doubt instruction to be a correct statement of the law. See State v. Jones, 343 S.C. 562, 578, 541 S.E.2d 813, 821 (2001) (holding a jury instruction explaining, “A reasonable doubt is the kind of doubt that would cause a reasonable person to hesitate to act” was “a correct statement of South Carolina law.”). Further, the trial court's instruction on circumstantial evidence immediately followed the reasonable doubt instruction. As our supreme court ultimately concluded in Logan, we conclude the trial court's instructions in the present case, as a whole, properly conveyed the applicable law. See Logan, 405 S.C. at 94 n. 8, 747 S.E.2d at 449 n. 8 (“A trial court's decision regarding jury charges will not be reversed where the charges, as a whole, properly charged the law to be applied." (citation omitted)); id. (concluding any error in the trial court's jury instructions was harmless because the trial court "clearly instructed the jury regarding the reasonable doubt burden of proof" and its jury instruction, "as a whole, properly conveyed the applicable law." (citations omitted)). Therefore, we affirm the denial of the Appellant's request to provide the Edwards instruction.


II. Withholding of Evidence

The Appellant challenges the trial court's refusal to grant him relief based on the prosecution's failure to produce Captain Kellet's file documenting her identification of the Victim's fingerprints, citing Rule 5 of the South Carolina Rules of Criminal Procedure.8 Appellant argues this alleged Rule 5 violation compromised his ability to fully impeach the credibility of Captain Kellet's testimony, and, thus, the trial court should have stricken her testimony or granted a mistrial. We disagree.


“The admission of evidence is within the discretion of the trial court and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion." State v. Tennant, 383 S.C. 245, 254, 678 S.E.2d 812, 816 (Ct. App.2009), modified on other grounds, 394 S.C. 5, 21, 714 S.E.2d 297, 305 (2011) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Likewise, "[t]he granting or refusing of a motion for a mistrial lies within the sound discretion of the trial court[,] and its ruling will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion amounting to an error of law." State v. Harris, 340 S.C. 59, 63, 530 S.E.2d 626, 627–28 (2000) (citation omitted). "An abuse of discretion occurs when the conclusions of the trial court either lack evidentiary support or are controlled by an error of law." Tennant, 383 S.C. at 254, 678 S.E.2d at 816 (citation and quotation marks omitted).


To warrant either a mistrial or reversal based on an evidentiary ruling, the complaining party must prove both the error of the ruling and the resulting prejudice. Id. at 254, 678 S.E.2d at 816–17 (as to the admission or exclusion of evidence); Harris, 340 S.C. at 63, 530 S.E.2d at 628 (as to a mistrial). “To prove prejudice, the complaining party must show there is a reasonable probability that the jury's verdict was influenced by the challenged evidence or lack thereof.” Tennant, 383 S.C. at 254, 678 S.E.2d at 817 (citation and quotation marks omitted).


The record shows that for approximately four years prior to trial, the Appellant's defense team was aware that fingerprints from the severed hands had been run through AFIS. Thus, the defense team was also aware of the possible existence of AFIS-related documents. Yet, nothing in the record indicates that defense counsel attempted to interview Captain Kellet or review any AFIS-related documents prior to trial. In any event, the Appellant did not contest Victim's identity at trial—defense counsel referenced the Victim's name several times while cross-examining the wife. Therefore, we find the trial court's failure to grant the requested relief did not result in any unfair prejudice to the Appellant. See State v. Sweet, 342 S.C. 342, 348, 536 S.E.2d 91, 94 (Ct. App.2000) ("A criminal defendant is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect one.").


Based on the foregoing, the trial court properly declined to strike Captain Kellet's testimony or declare a mistrial. See Tennant, 383 S.C. at 254, 678 S.E.2d at 816 (“The admission of evidence is within the discretion of the trial court and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.” (citation and quotation marks omitted)); Harris, 340 S.C. at 63, 530 S.E.2d at 627–28 (“The granting or refusing of a motion for a mistrial lies within the sound discretion of the trial court[,] and its ruling will not be disturbed on appeal absent an abuse of discretion amounting to an error of law.” (citation omitted)).


III. Lengthy Recess

Alternatively, the Appellant argues the trial court should have granted him a long recess or short continuance to obtain the assistance of an expert qualified to evaluate the documents in Captain Kellet's file. We disagree.


Because the defense team was aware of Captain Kellet's fingerprint analysis and the possible existence of AFIS-related documents for years prior to trial, the trial court properly declined to grant any further delay in the trial. See State v. Patterson, 367 S.C. 219, 230, 625 S.E.2d 239, 245 (Ct. App.2006) ( "The conduct of a criminal trial is left largely to the sound discretion of the trial judge, who will not be reversed in the absence of a prejudicial abuse of discretion.").


CONCLUSION

Accordingly, the Appellant's convictions are

AFFIRMED.

FOOTNOTES

1.298 S.C. 272, 274–76, 379 S.E.2d 888, 889 (1989), abrogated by State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 588, 595–606, 606 S.E.2d 475, 478–82 (2004).

2. The facts of this case are horrific; however, it is necessary to discuss them to give context to the Appellant's arguments regarding circumstantial evidence and to explain the relevance of the Appellant's arguments regarding the fingerprint identification of the Victim.

3. The State ID number "is assigned to you by SLED if you've ever been fingerprinted."

4. The record does not indicate when the swabs were taken from the Appellant's bathroom and Wife's van.

5. See Allen v. United States, 164 U.S. 492, 501 (1896) (finding no error in a jury instruction admonishing jurors to give due deference to the opinions of their fellow jurors).

6.298 S.C. 272, 274–76, 379 S.E.2d 888, 889 (1989), abrogated by State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 588, 595–606, 606 S.E.2d 475, 478–82 (2004).

7. The State asserts Appellant failed to preserve his argument that the trial court's circumstantial evidence instruction violated a constitutional right. The State argues trial counsel's request to provide the jury with the Edwards instruction was based on state law rather than constitutional law. Given the constitutional foundation on which our State's circumstantial evidence jurisprudence is based, it is likely that the trial counsel's reference to recent case law developments sufficiently apprised the trial court of the constitutional component of his request for the Edwards instruction. Further, any doubt concerning whether the Appellant's "reasonable doubt" argument was preserved for review should be resolved in favor of finding the argument preserved. See Atl. Coast Builders & Contractors, LLC v. Lewis, 398 S.C. 323, 330, 730 S.E.2d 282, 285 (2012) (recognizing "it may be good practice for [the appellate court] to reach the merits of an issue when error preservation is doubtful"); id. At 333, 730 S.E.2d at 287 (Toal, C.J., concurring) ("[W]here the question of preservation is subject to multiple interpretations, any doubt should be resolved in favor of preservation.").

8. Rule 5(a)(1)(C), SCRCrimP states: Upon request of the defendant, the prosecution shall permit the defendant to inspect and copy books, papers, documents, photographs, tangible objects, buildings, or places, or copies or portions thereof, which are within the possession, custody or control of the prosecution, and which are material to the preparation of his defense or are intended for use by the prosecution as evidence in chief at the trial, or were obtained from or belong to the defendant.

GEATHERS, J.

SHORT, J., and CURETON, A.J., concur.



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