Heard: June 17, 2014.
Appeal From Clarendon County. Appellate Case No. 2012-212430. R. Ferrell Cothran, Jr., Circuit Court Judge.
Appellate Defender Kathrine H. Hudgins, of Columbia, for Appellant.
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Ellis Roberts, both of Columbia, for Respondent.
GEATHERS, J. FEW, C.J., and SHORT, J., concur.
[410 S.C. 394] GEATHERS,
Appellant Michael Wilson Pearson challenges his convictions for first-degree burglary, armed robbery, grand larceny, kidnapping, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. Pearson argues the State failed to present substantial circumstantial evidence of his involvement in any of the crimes charged and, therefore, the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict. We reverse.
Around 6:15 a.m. on May 15, 2010, Edward " Slick" Gibbons was jumped by three men as he exited his garage. The three men robbed
Gibbons of approximately $840, beat him, and wrapped duct tape around his head. Following the attack, the men fled the scene in Gibbons' 1987 Chevrolet El Camino. The vehicle was discovered approximately thirty minutes later, abandoned on the side of a nearby road. A fingerprint [410 S.C. 395] recovered from the rear of the vehicle was matched to Pearson. The duct tape removed from Gibbons' head contained DNA evidence, which was matched to Victor Weldon.
Pearson and Weldon were both indicted for attempted murder, first-degree burglary, armed robbery, grand larceny, kidnapping, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. A joint trial was held from May 16 through May 18, 2012. At the time of trial, investigators had yet to identify a third suspect.
At trial, Gibbons testified that as he was leaving for work, three black men wearing masks came out of the storage room inside of his garage and threw him on the ground. According to Gibbons, one of the men sat on top of his legs, while the other two men hit and kicked him. While Gibbons was on the ground, the men wrapped duct tape around his head. Gibbons claimed that one of the men had something in his hand that " looked like a pistol." He further testified the men took all of the money in his wallet and then one of the men asked him, " Slick . . . where is the rest of it[?]" After the robbery, the three men left the garage and started to drive away. Gibbons described how he pulled himself off the ground and looked out a window in the garage to see them driving off in his El Camino. Gibbons noted that when he got up, one of the men, who was seated in the rear bed of the El Camino, jumped out of the vehicle, ran back, and knocked him unconscious.
Cecil Eaddy, a local farmer, testified he found the abandoned El Camino around 6:40 a.m. with the motor running and the passenger door open. Eaddy recounted how he turned the vehicle off and took the keys to Gibbons' auto parts store. Eaddy stated he returned the keys so that one of Gibbons' employees could drive the vehicle back to the store. Walter Bush, an employee at Gibbons' store, corroborated Eaddy's testimony. According to Bush, Eaddy picked him up from the store ...