Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in South Carolina Supreme Court
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Joseph Bowers was involved in a shootout in which multiple people fired their guns. Four people were shot, and two of them died. A jury convicted Bowers of voluntary manslaughter, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (ABHAN), and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. The court of appeals reversed the convictions because the trial court should not have charged the doctrine of mutual combat to the jury. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted the State's petition for a writ of certiorari to address a narrow point: the State's contention the erroneous jury charge did not prejudice Bowers as to the ABHAN conviction. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals. View "South Carolina v. Bowers" on Justia Law

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Justin Jamal Warner was convicted by jury of murder, attempted armed robbery, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. The court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Warner's petition for a writ of certiorari to address: (1) whether the trial court was correct to deny Warner's motion to suppress cell-site location information (CSLI) seized from his cell phone service provider; and (2) whether an out-of-court viewing by Warner's probation officer of a crime-scene video and the officer's identification of Warner as the man in the video required a hearing under Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972). The Supreme Court found the trial court correctly ruled the identification made from the video did not require a Biggers hearing. As to the CSLI, the Court held the warrant the trial court found invalid because the warrant sought information stored in another state was not - at least for that reason - invalid. The Supreme Court affirmed the court of appeals as to the Biggers issue and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings as to Warner's motion to suppress CSLI. View "South Carolina v. Warner" on Justia Law

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On January 2, 2015, James Daniels entered the Sunhouse convenience store at the intersection of Highway 905 and Red Bluff Road in Longs, South Carolina, on the pretense of buying a bottle of lemonade. James' actual purpose was to scout the store for Jerome Jenkins, Jr. and James' brother McKinley Daniels to rob it. Minutes after James left the store, Jenkins and McKinley entered, masked and armed with pistols. They first encountered Jimmy McZeke, who worked at the store. Jenkins and McKinley fired at McZeke, but both missed. McZeke then ran into the bathroom at the back of the store and locked the door. Jenkins followed McZeke and shot at him through the bathroom door. The gunshots shattered several glass bottles, and the shattered glass cut McZeke on his head. McKinley stayed at the front of the store where the store clerk, Bala Paruchuri, stood behind the cash register. McKinley pointed his pistol at Paruchuri, went behind the counter, and robbed Paruchuri of the money in the register. Jenkins quickly returned to the front of the store. As he and McKinley left the store, both shot Paruchuri. According to the store's video security system that recorded the entire sequence, Jenkins and McKinley were in the store for thirty-seven seconds. Paruchuri died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds. Jenkins was convicted of murder, attempted murder, and armed robbery. A jury sentenced Jenkins to death on the murder charge. This opinion consolidated Jenkins' direct appeal and the South Carolina Supreme Court's mandatory review of his death sentence under section 16-3-25 of the South Carolina Code (2015). Judgment and sentence was affirmed. View "South Carolina v. Jenkins" on Justia Law

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This case arose from the armed robbery and shooting death of a convenience store clerk, James Mahoney, at Nikki's Speedy Mart in Spartanburg County, South Carolina, in the early morning hours of September 16, 1999. Richard Moore petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the proportionality of the death sentence that was imposed for his murder conviction. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted Moore's motion to argue against the precedent of South Carolina v. Copeland, 300 S.E.2d 63 (1982). After review of the record and applicable law and consideration of the parties' arguments, the Supreme Court clarified Copeland and noted the Court was not statutorily required to restrict its proportionality review of "similar cases" to a comparison of only cases in which a sentence of death was imposed. The Supreme Court concluded, however, that Moore did not establish he was entitled to habeas relief. View "Moore v. Stirling" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Taylor was charged with driving under the influence (DUI). The magistrate court dismissed the charge, finding the State failed to comply with subsection 56-5-2953(A)'s requirement that the DUI incident site video recording "show" the defendant being advised of his Miranda rights. The circuit court and court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted the State's petition for a writ of certiorari to address two issues: (1) the meaning of the word "show" as it was used in subsection 56-5-2953(A); and (2) whether per se dismissal of a DUI charge was the proper remedy for a video's failure to "show" a DUI defendant being advised of his Miranda rights at the incident site. The Supreme Court concluded the magistrate court correctly interpreted the meaning of the word "show" as used in subsection 56-5-2953(A); however, the Court held that failure to show a DUI defendant being advised of his Miranda rights did not mandate per se dismissal. View "South Carolina v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Arguing that a drug raid of his home violated the Fourth Amendment, Petitioner Kelvin Jones appealed his convictions for trafficking cocaine and possession with intent to distribute cocaine within the proximity of a school. Jones's pretrial motion to suppress was denied and he was convicted following a jury trial. The court of appeals affirmed on the basis the issue was not preserved for appellate review. The South Carolina Supreme Court held Jones's argument as to the search warrant was preserved but failed on the merits. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in result the court of appeals' opinion and took this opportunity presented by this case to clarify issue preservation rules with respect to pre-trial rulings of constitutional dimension. View "South Carolina v. Jones" on Justia Law

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The South Carolina Supreme Court granted petitioners' request for a declaration with respect to Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 of the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act1 were invalid. Proviso 1.108 (enacted June 22, 2021,) was directed to the South Carolina Department of Education for South Carolina's kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) public schools, and banned face mask mandates at any of its education facilities. Proviso 1.103 permitted school districts to offer a virtual education program for up to five percent of its student population based on the most recent 135 day ADM [(average daily membership)]count without impacting any state funding. For every student participating in the virtual program above the five percent threshold, the school district would not receive 47.22% of the State per pupil funding provided to that district as reported in the latest Revenue and Fiscal Affairs revenue per pupil report pursuant to Proviso 1.3. Although the School District did not require its students to wear masks in its education facilities, it claimed Proviso 1.108 conflicted with local laws regarding mask requirements in schools and placed the School District in an untenable position. In addition, Petitioners claimed the School District reached the five percent cap for virtual enrollment and did not wish to risk losing state funds by exceeding the cap in Proviso 1.103. The School District asked for guidance on its options and obligations regarding face masks and virtual education. Petitioners contended: (1) Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 violate the one-subject rule of article III, section 17 of the South Carolina Constitution; (2) the plain language of Proviso 1.108 permitted the School District to implement and enforce mask mandates in its education facilities if the School District did so with funds not appropriated or authorized in the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act; (3) Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 improperly invade the authority of local school boards; and (4) Provisos 1.108 and 1.103 denied equal protection to students and violated their constitutional right to free public education. The Supreme Court held the provisos were constitutional, and rejected the remaining challenges to the validity of the provisos. View "Richland County School District 2 v. Lucas" on Justia Law

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Petitioners Jennifer Pinckney, Howard Duvall, and Kay Patterson challenged the constitutionality of section 10-1-165 of the South Carolina Code (2011). Petitioners also sought an injunction prohibiting enforcement of section 10- 1-165. The South Carolina Supreme Court granted the petition to hear the case in its original jurisdiction and found unconstitutional the procedural provision in subsection 10-1-165(B) purporting to restrict the General Assembly's legislative power by imposing a supermajority voting requirement to amend or repeal section 10-1-165. The Court found no constitutional violation in the substantive provisions in subsection 10-1-165(A) preventing the relocation, removal, renaming, or rededication of monuments, memorials, streets, bridges, parks, or other structures. The Court denied petitioners' request for an injunction. View "Pinckney v. Peeler" on Justia Law

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South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson sought a declaration by the South Carolina Supreme Court concerning the use of facemasks in the public schools of South Carolina during the coronavirus pandemic. The Court construed Proviso 117.190 of the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act relating to public institutions of higher learning, and determined from the language in that proviso that the University of South Carolina was not precluded from issuing a universal mask mandate that applied equally to vaccinated and unvaccinated students and faculty alike. This case involved a different proviso from the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act: Proviso 1.108, relating to public schools serving students grades kindergarten through 12 (K-12). Proviso 1.108 manifestly set forth the intent of the legislature to prohibit mask mandates funded by the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act in K-12 public schools. The Attorney General contended the City of Columbia passed ordinances in direct opposition to Proviso 1.108, mandating masks in all K-12 public schools in the City of Columbia. "While allowing school districts flexibility to encourage one policy or the other, the state legislature has elected to leave the ultimate decision to parents. Conversely, the City of Columbia has attempted to mandate masks for all school children by following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, which has the effect of disallowing parents a say in the matter." The Supreme Court upheld Proviso 1.108 and declared void the challenged ordinances of the City of Columbia insofar as they purported to impose a mask mandate in K-12 public schools. View "Wilson v. City of Columbia" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Richard Creswick, a professor at the University of South Carolina (the University), sought a declaration in the South Carolina Supreme Court's original jurisdiction that Proviso 117.190 of the 2021-2022 Appropriations Act did not prohibit a universal mask mandate at the University, and asked the Court for expedited consideration of this matter. Because this matter involved a question of significant public interest that had to be decided before classes resumed, the Supreme Court accepted review of this matter and expedited its consideration. Dispensing with further briefing (finding oral argument would not be helpful), the Court declared Proviso 117.190 did not prohibit a universal mask mandate. View "Creswick v. University of South Carolina" on Justia Law