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Kranchick v. State

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

October 26, 2016

Shanna Kranchick, Respondent,
v.
State of South Carolina, Petitioner. Appellate Case No. 2011-191687

          Heard February 10, 2015

         Appeal From Richland County L. Casey Manning, Circuit Court Judge

         REVERSED

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Megan E. Harrigan, both of Columbia, for Petitioner.

          Appellate Defender Kathrine Haggard Hudgins, of Columbia, for Respondent.

          MCDONALD, J.

         The State of South Carolina (the State) appeals the post-conviction relief (PCR) court's order granting Respondent Shanna M. Kranchick's application for PCR. The State argues the PCR court erred in determining that Kranchick's trial counsel provided ineffective assistance in failing to object to the State's forensic toxicologist's testimony as to the effects of the marijuana, antihistamines, and cough suppressant found in Kranchick's blood after the accident. We reverse and reinstate Respondent's conviction and sentence.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         At approximately 3:00 p.m. on January 23, 2002, Kranchick lost control of the Ford Taurus she was driving eastbound on Interstate 20 in Northeast Richland County. After swerving off the road, Kranchick overcorrected and collided with the rear of a bobtail truck. The impact caused the truck to spin into the median, over the median guardrail cables, and into the path of an oncoming tractor trailer hauling sand. The smaller truck flipped onto its roof, killing the driver, Gene Croft, at the scene. Croft's passenger and the driver of the tractor trailer were severely and permanently injured in the accident.

         On March 20, 2002, the Richland County grand jury indicted Kranchick for one count of felony driving under the influence (DUI) causing death and one count of felony DUI causing great bodily injury. Kranchick's first jury trial resulted in a mistrial.[1] Following a second jury trial, Kranchick was convicted and sentenced to thirteen years of imprisonment for felony DUI causing death and fifteen years of imprisonment, suspended upon the service of five years' probation, for felony DUI causing great bodily injury.[2] The PCR court subsequently granted Kranchick's application for post-conviction relief, finding "that the toxicologist was not sufficiently qualified to testify about the effects of drugs or when they are consumed." At issue is whether the PCR court erred in finding Kranchick's trial counsel ineffective for failing to object to a portion of the toxicologist's testimony.

         ANALYSIS

         "This Court will uphold the findings of the PCR judge when there is any evidence of probative value to support them, and it will reverse the PCR judge's decision when it is controlled by an error of law." McHam v. State, 404 S.C. 465, 473, 746 S.E.2d 41, 45 (2013) (quoting Suber v. State, 371 S.C. 554, 558-59, 640 S.E.2d 884, 886 (2007)). In order to establish a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel, an applicant must prove (1) counsel failed to render reasonably effective assistance under prevailing professional norms and (2) counsel's deficient performance prejudiced the applicant's case. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984).

         I. Deficient Performance

         At Kranchick's trial, forensic toxicologist Gregory Rock testified that he received a Bachelor of Science degree in medical technology from the University of South Carolina and additional training through the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division's (SLED's) toxicology program, "which consists of about a year-long training where [he] under[went] book work[, ] oral testing[, ] and written testing." Rock further testified that he worked as a forensic toxicologist at SLED for approximately two and one-half years following his training and that SLED is accredited by the American Society of Crime Lab Directors. Without objection, the trial court qualified Rock as an expert "in the field of forensic toxicology."

         Rock did not testify as to his education, experience, or knowledge relating to the physical or mental effects of drugs on the human body, and trial counsel did not object when he subsequently testified as to the effects of the "significant amount of [marijuana] metabolite" and "very significant" amounts of cough suppressant ...


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