Recent Development in Evidence

So. Carolina v. Heller

Following a jury trial, Christopher Heller was convicted of murder and ABWIK. In his appeal Heller asserted the trial court erred in 3 ways.

  1. allowing him to be impeached with his prior drug convictions pursuant to Rule 609(a)(1), SCRE, because the probative value of his drug convictions substantially outweighed their unduly prejudicial effect,
  2. refusing to declare a mistrial where a witness made reference to Heller being on parole, and
  3. refusing to grant an in camera hearing on the admissibility of a witness’s voice identification of Heller.
The analysis in this case does an excellent job setting forth the balancing tests for probative/prejudicial value of evidence, including specific types of evidence (i.e. testimony about prior criminal convictions.)
The analysis relies heavily on the following cases:
  • State v. Colf, 337 S.C. 622, 627, 525 S.E.2d 246, 248 (2000),
  • State v. Martin, 347 S.C. 522, 530, 556 S.E.2d 706, 710 (Ct. App. 2001),
  • State v. Reeves, 301 S.C. 191, 193-94, 391 S.E.2d 241, 243 (1990),
  • State v. Parris, 387 S.C. 460, 465, 692 S.E.2d 207, 209 (Ct. App. 2010),
  • Neil v. Biggers, 409 U.S. 188 (1972)
The Court of Appeals affirms, concluding that:

Based on the foregoing, we find, although the trial court failed to make an on-the- record Colf analysis, any possible error in the admission of Heller’s prior convictions was harmless nonetheless. Additionally, the issue concerning the mention of Heller being on “parole leave” by the witness is not preserved for our review. Finally, we hold a Biggers hearing was not required on the voice identification because Heller did not challenge the voice identification as being based upon an inherently suggestive out of court proceeding, and a proper foundation was laid for the admission of the testimony.

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