State v. Meggett

In this case, David Meggett was found guilty at trial of first degree criminal sexual conduct and first degree burglary. Meggett raises the following issues on appeal:

  1. Did the trial court err in denying his motion for continuance?
  2. Did the trial court err in denying his motion for a mistrial and his request for a curative instruction?
  3. Did the trial court err in denying his motion for a directed verdict as to the first-degree burglary charge?

Meggett’s motion for continuance centered around his supposed attempt to collect a crucial piece of evidence (a blanket which he alleged contained (supposedly exculpatory) DNA evidence.) The motion was made the morning of the trial, and the case had been on the docket for nearly 7 months, and the trial took place nearly two years after Meggett’s arrest. In affirming the trial court’s denial of Meggett’s motion for continuance, the appellate court quoted State v. Babb, 299 S.C. 451, 454-55, 385 S.E.2d 827, 829 (1989) (quoting State v. Motley, 251 S.C. 568, 572, 164 S.E.2d 569, 570 (1968)), saying:

When a motion for a continuance is based upon the contention that counsel for the defendant has not had time to prepare his case its denial by the trial court has rarely been disturbed on appeal. It is axiomatic that determination of such motions must depend upon the particular facts and circumstances of each case.

Meggett’s motion for mistrial stems from a statement made by the solicitor (prosecution) in the case that Mr. Meggett’s attorney had subtly asserted that the victim was a prostitute, and had then offered no evidence of this claim. Meggett’s attorney then raised an objection on the grounds that the statement shifted the burden of proof. The trial court denied the motion for a mistrial and this decision was affirmed on appeal. The Court of Appeals stated: “We find the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Meggett’s mistrial motion.” and further opined:

The solicitor did not state that Meggett failed to present any evidence or a defense. Furthermore, the solicitor did not suggest to the jury that an adverse inference should be drawn against Meggett based on his failure to present evidence or testify. The solicitor only commented on the lack of evidence presented to support the inference that Victim was a prostitute.

Finally, Meggett’s motion for directed verdict as to the burglary charge was also denied at trial, and this decision was also affirmed by the Court. The court recited the familiar standard for directed verdicts:

“In reviewing the denial of a motion for a directed verdict, the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the State, and if there is any direct evidence or any substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the guilt of the accused, an appellate court must find that the case was properly submitted to the jury.”

State v. Kelsey, 331 S.C. 50, 62, 502 S.E.2d 63, 69 (1998).

And then recited the statutory definition of first degree burglary in South Carolina (“A person is guilty of burglary in the first degree if the person enters a dwelling without consent and with intent to commit a crime in the dwelling,” and any one of several enumerated aggravating circumstances exists. )

and then finally affirmed the trial court’s decision.

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