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State v. Ledford

Supreme Court of South Carolina

February 28, 2018

The State, Petitioner,
v.
David Zackary Ledford, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-000791

          Heard September 27, 2017

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

         Appeal from Greenwood County Eugene C. Griffith Jr., Circuit Court Judge

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General John Benjamin Aplin, both of Columbia; and Solicitor David Matthew Stumbo, of Greenwood, for Petitioner.

          Clarence Rauch Wise, of Greenwood, for Respondent.

          JAMES, JUSTICE

         David Zackary Ledford was indicted for inflicting great bodily injury upon a child. The jury was sworn, and the case was tried up to the point of the charge conference between the trial court and the attorneys. During the charge conference, the State objected to the trial court's decision to give a jury charge proposed by Ledford. The trial court overruled the objection, and the State filed a notice of appeal. The court of appeals promptly dismissed the State's appeal, finding the issue raised was not immediately appealable. We affirm the court of appeals and dismiss the State's appeal.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         David Zackary Ledford and Brianna Dickey (Mother) are the parents of a minor child (Child). In December 2013, Mother was not feeling well, and Ledford watched Child so Mother could go to the doctor. Shortly thereafter, Mother received a call from Ledford explaining Child was choking and not breathing. EMS transported Child to the hospital, and she remained hospitalized for approximately three weeks. At the time of the incident, Child was approximately three and a half months old. The State's theory was that Ledford violently shook and/or hit Child, causing great bodily injury. Ledford's theory was that he non-violently shook Child in an attempt to revive her after she made a "gurgling choking sound" and "went limp."

         Ledford was indicted for inflicting great bodily injury upon a child-a violation of section 16-3-95 of the South Carolina Code (2015). The applicable portion of the statute does not set forth a specific level of intent the State must prove.[1]However, the indictment stated Ledford "willfully and unlawfully inflict[ed] great bodily injury upon a child."

         On November 2, 2015, the case went to trial before a jury. The jury was empaneled and sworn, and following the conclusion of the presentation of evidence, Ledford submitted his requested jury charges to the trial court. One of Ledford's requested jury charges stated:

"It is unlawful to inflict great bodily injury upon a child." To violate this statute, the [S]tate is required to prove that [Ledford] acted wil[l]fully. To act wil[l]fully, the [S]tate is required to prove that [Ledford] knew his act would inflict great bodily injury upon a child. It is not sufficient that the [S]tate prove that he acted negligently, grossly negligent[ly] or reckless[ly] in his action. Such actions are not wil[l]ful as alleged in the indictment.

         Ledford explained his requested jury charge included the term "willfully" because the indictment alleged he "willfully" inflicted great bodily injury upon a child. He asserted that because the State included this level of intent in the indictment, the State was required to prove to the jury he committed the crime "willfully." The State objected to the proposed jury charge, arguing the jury charge added an element to the offense that was not in the statute.

         The trial court determined Ledford's requested jury charge-except for the last sentence-was appropriate. Before the trial court could charge the jury, the State filed its notice of appeal with the court of appeals. The court of appeals promptly dismissed the State's appeal, ruling the trial court's decision to give the disputed jury charge was ...


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