Martina R. Putnam, Petitioner,
State of South Carolina, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2012-212396
October 13, 2015
From Sumter County George C. James, Trial Judge W. Jeffrey
Young, Post-Conviction Relief Judge
Appellate Defender Benjamin John Tripp, of Columbia, for
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney
General Daniel Francis Gourley, II, both of Columbia, for
post-conviction relief (PCR) action, Martina R. Putnam
contends the PCR court erred in dismissing her application
for PCR and finding trial counsel was not ineffective for
failing to adequately prepare her case and call witnesses to
testify in her defense. We affirm.
was charged with homicide by child abuse in the death of her
thirteen-month-old son (the Victim). At trial, the State
sought to prove Putnam willfully and unlawfully killed the
Victim by abuse or neglect. Putnam attempted to shift
suspicion to her husband, Patrick, and her older
children-Sibling One, age nine, and Sibling Two, age six
(collectively, the Children)-who were also in the house when
the Victim's fatal injuries occurred.
Putnam awoke on the morning of the Victim's death,
Patrick and the Children were already awake; Patrick was in
the kitchen preparing food, and the Children were playing
outside. Putnam testified she fed the Victim breakfast, took
him to the bathroom for his bath, and laid him on the
bathroom floor. Putnam stated she went to the bedroom to get
a towel and when she returned to the bathroom, the Victim was
not moving and felt like a "rag doll" in her hands.
Officer Gwen Herod of the Sumter County Sheriff's Office,
who interviewed Putnam, testified that Putnam claimed she did
not know how the Victim's injury happened and admitted
she was the only person with the Victim during that time.
Herod conducted a videotaped forensic interview with the
Children. Her understanding was Sibling One had interacted
with the Victim before Putnam did on the morning of the
Victim's death. Officer Herod testified Sibling One said
he picked the Victim up from his crib that morning before
going outside to play, hugged him, and then put him back in
the crib. Additionally, Officer Herod stated Sibling One
described picking the Victim up and holding him upside down
by his feet two days before the Victim died. The trial court
allowed this testimony after the parties stipulated to its
admissibility. Outside the presence of the jury, trial
counsel asked Officer Herod whether Sibling One reported
seeing Patrick pick the Victim up in a similar manner.
Without reviewing the videotaped interview, Officer Herod
could not recall whether Sibling One said someone else also
picked the Victim up by his feet. Trial counsel noted that in
the videotaped interview, Sibling One described holding the
Victim by his feet and went "into this whole process
about how [Patrick] used to do this and how they would hold
his head and everything else." The trial court ruled
Sibling One's comments concerning Patrick's alleged
conduct were inadmissible hearsay under section 17-23-175 of
the South Carolina Code (2014) because Sibling One did not
testify at trial and were beyond the scope of the
the presence of the jury, trial counsel proffered Officer
Herod's testimony that on the day the Victim died,
Patrick allegedly threatened to kill her and another officer.
Trial counsel argued Patrick's threat was relevant
because it demonstrated Patrick, who had access to the Victim
before Putnam awoke on the day he died, had a tendency to
express violence. The trial court excluded the proffered
testimony because the threat was not relevant.
demonstrate Sibling One's propensity for violence, Putnam
proffered testimony that while in foster care following
Putnam's arrest, Sibling One kicked Sibling Two so hard
that the kick left a shoe print on Sibling Two's chest.
The trial court refused to admit the testimony under Rule
404(b), SCRE, and determined the testimony did not survive
the analysis set forth in State v.
Gregory because it merely cast a bare suspicion of
guilt on Sibling One.
State presented testimony from three doctors who explained
the Victim's medical history and injuries. Dr. Joel
Sexton, the pathologist who conducted the Victim's
autopsy, concluded the cause of death was a subdural hematoma
resulting from an abusive head trauma like a shaking or
impact injury and ruled the death a homicide. Dr. Sexton
opined the Victim could have experienced a lucid period after
his impact injury but before he lost consciousness; however,
the other two doctors disagreed with Dr. Sexton's
opinion. Dr. Sexton testified the Victim was born premature
and suffered from delayed development. In addition, Putnam
testified the Victim suffered from severe apnea, reflux,
digestive problems, breathing problems, and retinopathy.
jury found Putnam guilty, and the trial court sentenced her
to twenty-five years' imprisonment. Putnam filed a direct
appeal, and this court affirmed her conviction and sentence.
State v. ...