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State v. Jenkins

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

May 21, 2014

The State, Respondent,
Clarence Williams Jenkins, Appellant

Heard May 6, 2014

Page 760

Appeal From Greenville County. Appellate Case No. 2012-211588. Edward W. Miller, Circuit Court Judge.

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.

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


Page 761

[408 S.C. 563] GEATHERS, J.

Appellant Clarence Williams Jenkins seeks review of his convictions for kidnapping and murder. Appellant argues the trial court's refusal to provide the jury with the circumstantial evidence instruction quoted in State v. Edwards [1] violated his right to require the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Appellant also challenges the trial court's failure to strike the testimony of the State's fingerprint expert, [408 S.C. 564] or, in the alternative, to grant a mistrial, arguing the prosecution withheld evidence material to the testimony in question. We affirm.


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.[2] Bostic 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 Appellant and his wife, Carmen Jenkins (Wife), for the murder of Victim. On November 18, 2008, the Greenville County Grand Jury indicted Appellant for murder. In December 2008, the State filed a Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty against Appellant and Wife. In September 2009, Wife advised investigators of the location of Victim's remains in exchange for the State's [408 S.C. 565] withdrawal of its Notice of Intent to Seek the Death Penalty against Wife.

On March 9, 2011, Wife entered into a plea agreement with the State, requiring her truthful testimony in Appellant's trial in exchange for the State's subsequent request for a reduction in Wife's sentence. On September 13, 2011, the Grand Jury indicted Appellant for the kidnapping of Victim. On March 27, 2012, Wife pled guilty to the murder of 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 Appellant.

Appellant's trial took place on April 9 through 13, 2012. Captain Kellet, who had

Page 762

matched the fingerprints from the severed hands to Victim's fingerprints, was qualified as an expert in fingerprint analysis, and she explained the process she went through in identifying 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, Victim's " State ID number" [3] was the first number on the list of respondents. Captain Kellet then pulled a fingerprint card for Victim from her agency's records and visually compared, point by point, 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 Wife, who testified about Appellant's alleged plan to intimidate a former housemate, Grace Davis, into returning to their home and continuing to live with them. According to Wife, during the time Davis lived with Appellant and 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 Appellant and Wife. Therefore, Davis left the home. A few days later, Appellant [408 S.C. 566] 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." Appellant also told Wife " the organization would kill all of [them] if she didn't come back." Wife testified that she had never heard about this organization until that day.

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, Appellant brought home Victim, a prostitute, and handcuffed her to a bed. Appellant told Victim that he and Wife were police officers and that Victim was " under arrest for prostitution and possession of crack." Appellant also told Victim that the only way she would get out of those charges was for her to help 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, Appellant removed the handcuffs. Appellant wrote out a script for Victim to read over a telephone to members of Davis's family. Appellant then handcuffed Victim again and gave the script to her to memorize. Sometime around midnight, Appellant, Wife, and Victim went to a pay telephone at a nearby gasoline station, and 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 Appellant. Appellant and Wife then took Victim back to their home, and 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, Appellant ordered Wife to kill Victim, who was still handcuffed to the chair. Wife attempted to strangle Victim with a cable cord, but as Victim struggled against Wife, Wife lost control of the cord. Appellant then tied the cord to the back of the chair, placed a plastic bag over Victim's head, and suffocated her.

[408 S.C. 567] Appellant and Wife took Victim's body to the bathroom and placed her body in the shower. Later that day, Appellant dismembered Victim's body, forcing Wife to participate, and placed the dismembered parts in the couple's freezer. Appellant and Wife disposed of Victim's body near a golf course on Paris Mountain and returned to ...

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