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State v. Coaxum

Supreme Court of South Carolina

October 8, 2014

The State, Petitioner,
v.
William Coaxum, Sr., Respondent

Heard: May 8, 2014.

Appeal From Charleston County. R. Markley Dennis, Jr., Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2012-206607.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, and Assistant Attorney General Mark Reynolds Farthing, all of Columbia, for Petitioner.

Appellate Defender David Alexander, of Columbia, for Respondent.

CHIEF JUSTICE TOAL. PLEICONES, KITTREDGE, HEARN, JJ., and Acting Justice James E. Moore, concur.

OPINION

Page 243

[410 S.C. 323] TOAL, CHIEF JUSTICE:

The State appeals the court of appeals' decision to reverse the convictions of William Coaxum, Sr. (Respondent), who was found guilty of armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. See State v. Coaxum, Op. No. 2011-UP-496, (S.C. Ct. App. filed Nov. 7, 2011). [410 S.C. 324] The court of appeals found reversible error in the trial court's decision to remedy a juror's unintentional nondisclosure during voir dire by replacing the juror in the middle of Respondent's trial. We reverse.

Facts/Procedural Background

On November 27, 2007, around 11:00 p.m., two armed men robbed a Pizza Hut located in North Charleston, South Carolina. The robbers escaped in an " orange hatchback-type car." Within minutes, the police saw a vehicle matching this description in the same general vicinity of the Pizza Hut and attempted to conduct an investigatory stop. The driver of the vehicle, Respondent, refused to pull over, and a high-speed pursuit ensued.

Within two miles of the start of the chase, Respondent lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a fire hydrant, which caused a water line to rupture. Respondent and his passenger attempted to flee on foot. However, the police car hydroplaned in the water spilling from the broken fire hydrant and collided with Respondent. The police arrested Respondent at the scene of the crash, and their search of his car and person revealed a sawed-off shotgun and over $1,000 in cash.[1]

Page 244

Prior to Respondent's trial, the trial court conducted voir dire of the prospective jurors. Specifically, the court asked: " Are there any members of the jury panel related [by] blood or marriage, socially or casually connected with [Respondent], or that have any business dealings, any connection whatsoever?" None of the prospective jurors responded. After the judge asked the jury pool several other questions, the parties selected twelve jurors and one alternate juror to serve as jurors during Respondent's trial, including Juror #7.[2]

[410 S.C. 325] At trial, after the State presented the first four of its eight witnesses, the judge received a note from the jury foreperson indicating that Juror #7 recognized one of Respondent's family members sitting in the courtroom. The judge conducted an off-the-record discussion with Juror #7 to determine the nature of her relationship with the family member and whether she ...


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