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State v. Beaty

Supreme Court of South Carolina

December 29, 2016

The State, Respondent,
v.
Michael Vernon Beaty, Jr., Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2015-000718

          Heard October 19, 2016

         Appeal from Laurens County W. Jeffrey Young, Circuit Court Judge

         AFFIRMED.

          Clarence Rauch Wise and E. Charles Grose, Jr., both of Greenwood, for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, and Assistant Attorney General Susannah Rawl Cole, all of Columbia; and Solicitor David Matthew Stumbo, of Greenwood, for Respondent.

          PLEICONES CHIEF JUSTICE

         Appellant was convicted of murdering his girlfriend and received a life sentence. While we affirm his conviction and sentence, we find two of the issues he raises require discussion.[1] Those two issues involve the trial judge's use of certain terms in his opening remarks to the jury, and the content requirements of a divided closing argument.

         A. Opening Remarks

         After the jury was sworn the trial judge gave preliminary remarks. These remarks began with a warning that a real trial was not like television, and outlined the roles, duties, and responsibilities of the lawyers and the jury. This was followed by a "non-charge, " further advice about the proper role of the jury, and an explanation of trial procedure. During those remarks, the judge said:

This . . . trial . . . is a search for the truth in an effort to make sure that justice is done. In searching for the truth and ensuring that justice is done is [sic] often slow, deliberate, and repetitive.
[The attorneys] are sworn to uphold the integrity and the fairness of our judicial system and to help you as jurors to search for the truth.
[Y]ou also just took an oath to listen to the evidence in this case and reach a fair and just verdict and you are expected to be professional, reasonable and ethical.
[Y]ou the jurors find [the facts] from the testimony from a witness from the witness stand or any other evidence, and after hearing that evidence you will deliberate and render a true and just verdict under the solemn oath that you just took as jurors.
[I]n determining what the true facts are in this case you must decide whether or not the testimony of a ...

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