Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

STATE v. PRINCE

December 13, 1993

THE STATE, APPELLANT/RESPONDENT.
v.
ROGER DEWITT (BILL) PRINCE, RESPONDENT/APPELLANT.



Appeal From Circuit Court, Florence County Ralph King Anderson, Jr., Judge.

Per curiam.

The State appeals a new trial granted to Roger Dewitt (Bill) Prince (Prince) on the charge of accessory before the fact of murder. Prince appeals his convictions for conspiracy and solicitation. We reverse the grant of the new trial motion and remand for sentencing, and affirm Prince's two convictions. This case is a companion to State v. Charlie Dorn Smith, 447 S.E.2d 175 (S.C. S.Ct. 1993).

FACTS

On June 10, 1987, the victim (Billy Graham) was found dead in his residence which had been extensively burned. The pathologist performing the autopsy, noting "fire-related injuries," concluded that the cause of death was thermal burns and carbon monoxide poisoning. Investigators were unable to determine the cause of the fire, and Mr. Graham's death was ruled accidental.

In February of 1988, Charles McCray was arrested on charges unrelated to Mr. Graham's death. While in custody, he gave a statement in which he admitted he was paid to murder Mr. Graham. He shot him, stole his pistols, and set his house on fire. While the contents of McCray's statement were admitted only against him,*fn1 other evidence showed McCray was dropped off near Mr. Graham's home on the night of the murder and later led police to a secreted pipe wrench hidden near the home.

As a result of McCray's statement, the investigation into Mr. Graham's death was reopened and his body was exhumed. The pathologist, upon x-raying the body,*fn2 found two bullets in the brain tissue which had been overlooked during the initial autopsy.

McCray was subsequently arrested for Mr. Graham's murder. Prince and Charlie Dorn Smith were also arrested and charged with Mr. Graham's murder. Subsequently, McCray, Smith, and Prince were tried jointly for the murder of Mr. Graham. In addition, Prince and Smith were charged with accessory before the fact of murder and conspiracy, and with solicitation of Fred "Peaches" Andrews to commit the murder. McCray was additionally charged with burglary, arson, armed robbery, and conspiracy.

The State sought to establish that Smith and Prince conspired to have Mr. Graham murdered to deter a pending civil lawsuit in which Mr. Graham did not sue them, but did name them as co-conspirators. Mr. Graham had recently won another lawsuit against Smith and Prince in which he received a substantial judgment. Further, Prince held a life insurance policy on Mr. Graham for $500,000.*fn3

On the solicitation charges, Andrews testified that both Smith and Prince separately contacted him about hiring someone to commit a murder. Smith approached him on two occasions in January 1987, asking what it would take to have "someone taken care of " for him. Smith never identified his intended victim. Prince also approached Andrews on two occasions in June 1987, shortly before Graham's death. At their second meeting, Prince elaborated that he and Smith needed to have Mr. Graham killed and were prepared to pay $20,000. Prince's statements were not admissible against Smith since the State could not establish a prima facie conspiracy as to Smith. See State v. Sullivan, 277 S.C. 35, 282 S.E.2d 838 (1981).

Andrews testified that he never attempted to procure someone to kill Mr. Graham. This testimony was contradicted by another witness. Shortly after their second conversation and before Mr. Graham's death, Prince advised Andrews that he had hired a local person to commit the murder.

After Mr. Graham's death, Andrews saw Prince and Smith on a regular basis, but the murder was never mentioned. In December of 1988, however, after the second autopsy, Prince telephoned Andrews and asked "had I [Andrews] been keeping my god damn mouth shut." Andrews, allegedly fearing for his life, contacted SLED. In January of 1989, Prince again called Andrews, stating that he heard Andrews had contacted SLED. Prince told Andrews that both he and Smith wanted to talk to him. This call was recorded by Andrews.

The State also called Dr. Morris Anderson, a personal friend of Mr. Graham's. Dr. Anderson testified that, shortly before Mr. Graham's death, Prince called him [Anderson] and stated: "Mr. Graham was going to be killed if he didn't change what he was doing . . . if you [Anderson] have any influence with Mr. Graham, then let me get you to use it, because he is playing with fire . . . ."

At the conclusion of the State's case, the trial judge granted a directed verdict to Smith and Prince on the charge of murder but denied Prince's motions on the charge of accessory before the fact of murder and conspiracy.

At the conclusion of the trial, the jury returned the following verdicts:

  Defendant Prince
    - guilty of accessory before the fact of murder;
    - guilty of solicitation;
    - guilty of conspiracy.
  Defendant Smith
    - guilty of accessory before the fact of murder;
    - guilty of solicitation;
    - acquitted of conspiracy.
  Defendant McCray
    - acquitted of murder;
    - acquitted of arson;
    - acquitted of armed robbery;
    - guilty of burglary;
    - guilty of conspiracy.
The trial judge granted post-trial motions of Prince and Smith for new trials on the charges of accessory before the fact of murder, from which the State appeals. Prince appeals his convictions for solicitation and conspiracy.

ISSUES

A. STATE'S APPEAL

    Was Prince entitled to a new trial for accessory
    before the fact of murder?
B. PRINCE'S APPEAL
  1. Was Prince entitled to a directed
    verdict on accessory before the fact of
    murder?
  2. Was Prince entitled to a directed
    verdict on conspiracy?
  3. Was Prince entitled to a directed
    verdict on solicitation?
  4. Is the common law offense of
    solicitation viable in South Carolina?
  5. Was Prince entitled to a mistrial based
    upon Co-defendant Smith's closing
    argument?
6. Was Prince entitled to severance?
  7. Was Prince entitled to a new trial based
    upon after-discovered evidence?
DISCUSSION

A. STATE'S APPEAL

The State argues that the trial judge abused his discretion in granting a new trial on Prince's conviction for accessory before the fact of murder. We agree and reinstate the conviction.

Upon completion of the State's case, Prince moved for directed verdict on the accessory charge. The motion was denied. However, after the jury returned its verdict, the judge granted Prince's new trial motion for accessory on the ground that the evidence was insufficient to establish that some principal committed the offense of murder.

It is well settled that the grant or refusal of a new trial is within the discretion of the trial judge and will not be disturbed on appeal absent a clear abuse of that discretion. State v. Simmons, 279 S.C. 165, 303 S.E.2d 857 (1983). However, where there is competent evidence to sustain the jury's verdict, the judge may not substitute his judgment for that of the jury. State v. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.