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State v. Jones

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

July 20, 2016

The State, Respondent,
v.
Roy Lee Jones, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2014-001639

          Submitted June 1, 2016

         Appeal From Greenville County Robin B. Stilwell, Circuit Court Judge

          Appellate Defender Lara Mary Caudy, of Columbia, for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Deborah R.J. Shupe, both of Columbia, and William Walter Wilkins, III, of Greenville, all for Respondent.

          WILLIAMS, J.

         Roy Lee Jones appeals his convictions for one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) with a minor, one count of second-degree CSC with a minor, and two counts of lewd act upon a child. Jones argues the circuit court abused its discretion by allowing the State's witness to testify as an expert in child sex abuse dynamics because the subject matter of her testimony was not beyond the ordinary knowledge of the jury, the State failed to prove the reliability of the substance of her testimony, she improperly bolstered the victims' credibility, and her testimony was highly prejudicial. We affirm.

         FACTS/PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         During the period of sexual abuse, from 2004 to 2009, Jones lived with his longtime girlfriend (Mother) and her two daughters (Older Sister and Younger Sister) in different homes in Greenville County, South Carolina. Older Sister was fifteen years old and Younger Sister was ten years old when Jones first began molesting them.

         On June 24, 2014, a Greenville County grand jury indicted Jones on two counts of first-degree CSC with a minor, five counts of second-degree CSC with a minor, and two counts of lewd act upon a child. The case was called for a jury trial on July 16, 2014.

         Prior to trial, Jones informed the circuit court he intended to object to the admission of testimony from the State's proposed expert, Shauna Galloway-Williams, on the ground that her testimony would improperly bolster the victims' credibility. The court indicated it would hear Jones's objection prior to the proposed expert testifying at trial. Subsequently, during jury qualification, the court asked if any of the jurors had been a victim, or had a close relative who had been a victim, of a sex crime. No jurors responded to the question. The court further asked if any jurors had been personally accused-or had a close relative who had been accused-of a sex crime and, again, no jurors responded.

         At trial, Older Sister and Younger Sister (collectively "the Victims") described various incidents of abuse that started with Jones making inappropriate comments and fondling them, but eventually progressed to oral and vaginal intercourse. Older Sister testified that, when she tried to stop Jones, he would physically force her to comply, threaten to harm her and her family using witchcraft, and frequently offer her gifts and money to keep her from reporting the abuse. Older Sister stated Jones sexually abused her over one hundred times. In 2012, the Victims' aunt confronted Older Sister after Younger Sister disclosed that Jones had been molesting her. Following this conversation, Older Sister went to the police and reported that Jones had sexually abused her as well.

         Younger Sister testified that Jones started sexually abusing her when she was going into the sixth grade. Jones's molestation began with fondling and progressed to vaginal intercourse, and Younger Sister ultimately contracted a sexually transmitted disease from him. After Jones beat Younger Sister for refusing to have sex with him, she told Mother that Jones had been molesting her. Mother, however, allowed Jones to continue living in the home and the molestation continued. Younger Sister also testified that Jones would give her money and then take it back after sexually abusing her. To prevent Younger Sister from reporting the abuse, Jones physically abused her and threatened to harm her family with witchcraft.

         Subsequently, Mother testified regarding her relationship with Jones as well as the circumstances under which the Victims reported the molestation to her. According to Mother, Jones denied the reports when she confronted him, and she wanted to believe Jones because she loved him. Mother was also concerned the Victims would be taken away from her if they went to the police. In September 2008, though, Mother took Younger Sister to a doctor's appointment and learned Younger Sister had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. The doctor asked Younger Sister if she was sexually active, and she just looked at Mother "asking if she should say." Later, when Mother confronted Jones at home, the two got into an argument and she left the house. Mother indicated she finally kicked Jones out of the home in 2010.

         The circuit court then held an in-camera hearing during which the State proffered Galloway-Williams as an expert in child sex abuse dynamics to testify regarding delayed disclosures, the disclosure process, and behavioral characteristics of nonoffending caregivers. Galloway-Williams, the executive director of the Julie Valentine Center, testified as to her extensive training and qualifications in the area of child sexual abuse. On voir dire, Galloway-Williams was unable to recall specific citations to studies or articles addressing the reliability of delayed disclosure issues, but she indicated she could provide them and stated all of her training included the studies and articles as the basis of fact. Moreover, Galloway-Williams explained the textbook she uses to teach a class at the University of South Carolina Upstate referenced articles about delayed disclosures and nonoffending caregivers. In addition, Galloway-Williams confirmed that these issues are researched and published in articles in professional journals, subjected to peer review, and uniformly accepted and used by experts and professionals in counseling and treating child sex abuse victims.

         Jones objected to Galloway-Williams testifying as an expert in child sex abuse dynamics, arguing the substance of her testimony was not beyond the ordinary knowledge of the jury or reliable. Jones further contended her testimony would improperly bolster the Victims' testimony and was highly prejudicial. The circuit court overruled Jones's objection, finding the proffered expert testimony is admissible in child sex abuse cases of this nature, and the subject matter of Galloway-Williams' testimony is outside the common knowledge of the public as well as the jury pool in particular.

         Thereafter, the circuit court qualified Galloway-Williams as an expert in child sex abuse dynamics over Jones's objection and she testified before the jury. During her direct testimony, Galloway-Williams testified in general terms regarding delayed disclosures, the disclosure process, and the responses of nonoffending caregivers. Nevertheless, Galloway-Williams did not specifically reference the Victims or Mother. On cross-examination, Galloway-Williams stated she never met with any of the witnesses in this case, including law enforcement, and her only knowledge of the case came from discussions with the solicitor's office one month prior to trial.

         After the circuit court denied Jones's motion for a directed verdict, he took the stand in his own defense and denied molesting the Victims. Jones testified that he was a large financial provider for the family and would give them all of his money. Jones claimed he eventually "got tired of" paying all the bills, with the rest of the family failing to contribute, and decided to move out of the home. After Jones moved out, he stated Mother and the Victims still visited him often. According to Jones, the Victims brought these allegations as retaliation for him threatening to press charges against Older Sister for stealing money from him. On cross-examination, Jones admitted to a prior conviction for second-degree CSC stemming from an incident during his previous marriage.

         At the conclusion of trial, the jury found Jones guilty of one count of first-degree CSC with a minor, one count of second-degree CSC with a minor, and two counts of lewd act upon a child. The jury, however, acquitted Jones of the five remaining indictments. Following the verdict, the circuit court sentenced Jones to life without parole for first- and second-degree CSC with a minor and fifteen years' imprisonment, to run concurrently, for each count of lewd act upon a child.[1] This appeal followed.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         "In criminal cases, the appellate court sits to review errors of law only." State v. Jenkins, 412 S.C. 643, 650, 773 S.E.2d 906, 909 (2015). "Generally, the admission of expert testimony is a matter within the sound discretion of the [circuit] court." State v. Cope, 405 S.C. 317, 343, 748 S.E.2d 194, 208 (2013) (quoting State v. Whaley, 305 S.C. 138, 143, 406 S.E.2d 369, 372 (1991)). This court will not disturb the circuit court's admissibility determinations absent a prejudicial abuse of discretion. State v. Adkins, 353 S.C. 312, 326, 577 S.E.2d 460, 468 (Ct. App. 2003). "An abuse of discretion arises from an error of law or a factual conclusion that is without evidentiary support." State v. Irick, 344 S.C. 460, 464, 545 S.E.2d 282, 284 (2001). "A [circuit] court's ruling on the admissibility of an expert's testimony constitutes an abuse of discretion whe[n] the ruling is manifestly arbitrary, unreasonable, or unfair." State v. Grubbs, 353 S.C. 374, 379, 577 S.E.2d 493, 496 (Ct. App. 2003). To show prejudice, the appellant must demonstrate "a reasonable probability the jury's verdict was influenced by the challenged evidence or the lack thereof." Fields v. Reg'l Med. Ctr. Orangeburg, 363 S.C. 19, 26, 609 S.E.2d 506, 509 (2005).

         LA ...


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