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State v. Legg

Supreme Court of South Carolina

April 20, 2016

The State, Respondent,
v.
Ronald Lee Legg, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2014-000568

Heard February 9, 2016.

Appeal from Horry County Edward B. Cottingham, Circuit Court Judge

Chief Appellate Defender Robert Michael Dudek, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Ellis Roberts, both of Columbia, and Solicitor Jimmy A. Richardson, II, of Conway, for Respondent.

PLEICONES, CHIEF JUSTICE.

Appellant was convicted of lewd act on a minor. He was sentenced to twelve years' imprisonment, ordered to be placed on the sex offender registry, and subjected to GPS monitoring. Appellant argued at trial and before this Court that South Carolina Code Annotated section 17-23-175 (2014)-permitting a videotaped forensic interview of an alleged child abuse victim to be played before a jury-arbitrarily allows an alleged victim to testify twice therefore violating his Due Process[1] right to a fair trial under the Fourteenth Amendment.[2] The trial judge ruled the videotape at issue met the statutory requirement for admission, and that in his view, its admission was constitutional; therefore, the videotape was permitted to be played before the jury. Because we find the statute is not facially unconstitutional on procedural Due Process grounds, we affirm appellant's conviction and sentence.

ISSUE

Is section 17-23-175 (2014), unconstitutional in that it arbitrarily allows an alleged victim's testimony to be presented twice, depriving a defendant of his Due Process right to a fair trial under the Fourteenth Amendment?

ANALYSIS

Appellant contends section 17-23-175 offends Due Process because it arbitrarily allows an alleged victim's "testimony" to be heard twice by the jury, thereby bolstering the testimony of the alleged victim, where no other type of criminal case allows this procedure.[3] We disagree.

Section 17-23-175 provides, in pertinent part:

(A) In a general sessions court proceeding or a delinquency proceeding in family court, an out-of-court statement of a child is admissible if:
(1) the statement was given in response to questioning conducted during an investigative interview of the child;
(2) an audio and visual recording of the statement is preserved on film, videotape, or other electronic means, except ...

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