Heard February 5, 2014
Reheard January 13, 2015
Withdrawn, Substituted, and Refiled June 10, 2015
Appeal From Richland County Clifton Newman, Circuit Court Judge
Dwight Franklin Drake and Michael J. Anzelmo, both of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, LLP, of Columbia, for Appellant.
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Attorney General Brendan Jackson McDonald, and Solicitor Daniel Edward Johnson, all of Columbia, for Respondent.
In this criminal appeal, Leslie Parvin argues the trial court erred in allowing inadmissible hearsay testimony from two witnesses. We affirm.
Parvin was indicted on two counts of murder related to the deaths of Edgar Lopez and Pablo Guzman-Gutierrez. The State tried the case under the theory that Parvin solicited Lopez for sex and then killed Lopez and Gutierrez in retaliation when Lopez refused him later in the night. Parvin argued self-defense.
Motion In Limine
Immediately prior to trial, Parvin made a motion in limine to exclude any testimony referring to other crimes, wrongs, or bad acts. He contended any statements alleging he was at Lopez's home for homosexual sex were inadmissible. Specifically, he objected to statements from three different witnesses-testimony from Adan Soto and Marlin Avila regarding statements made by Lopez at a gas station and testimony from José Monroy regarding statements Monroy overheard at Lopez's home. For purposes of this appeal, we focus only on the contested testimony from Soto and Avila, which will be referred to as the Lopez statements. Parvin does not appeal any issue related to Monroy's testimony.
Parvin argued (1) the Lopez statements were inadmissible pursuant to Rule 404(b), SCRE, because the State could not prove by clear and convincing evidence Parvin committed any bad acts; (2) the State was improperly introducing the Lopez statements to prove he was of bad character; and (3) the Lopez statements were more prejudicial than probative. Parvin also contended the Lopez statements would be inadmissible as hearsay.
The State argued the Lopez statements were admissible under the theory of res gestae or the present sense impression exception to the hearsay rule. As to the issue of res gestae, the State asserted there was an ongoing chain of events and the Lopez statements were an integral part of the crime. The State also contended the Lopez statements were admissible under Rule 803(3), SCRE, as statements of the declarant's "[t]hen existing mental, emotional, or physical condition." Finally, the State emphasized that the Lopez statements also indicated Parvin's alleged motive and were not intended to show bad character. The State, however, asserted it was not attempting to enter the Lopez statements pursuant to Rule 404(b), SCRE.
The trial court ruled the Lopez statements (1) were admissible under the res gestae theory, (2) constituted an exception to the hearsay rule, and (3) were probative to the issue of Parvin's motive. During trial, the trial court clarified its decision and stated that in admitting the testimonies under the res gestae theory, the testimonies "did not involve other crimes, but may have suggested ...