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State v. Williams

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

February 28, 2018

The State, Respondent,
Gerald Rudell Williams, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2013-002304

          Heard March 14, 2017

         Appeal From Saluda County J. Michael Baxley, Circuit Court Judge

          Appellate Defender David Alexander, of Columbia, for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Assistant Attorney General William Frederick Schumacher, IV, both of Columbia; and Assistant Solicitor Joshua L. Thomas, of Greenwood, for Respondent.

          WILLIAMS, J.

         In this criminal appeal, Gerald Rudell Williams appeals his convictions for attempted murder, arguing the circuit court erred in (1) refusing to charge the jury on the lesser included offense of first-degree assault and battery and (2) charging the jury on the doctrine of transferred intent. We affirm.


         This case arises out of an incident on April 13, 2012, in which a double-wide mobile home (the Residence) in Saluda, South Carolina, was shot several times. At the time, Al Jerome Young lived in the Residence, along with Ycedra Williams[1]and her husband, Joseph Wrighton. Prior to the incident, Young agreed to purchase drugs for OJ Charley in exchange for Charley paying Young $26, 000 in cash. Young, however, stated he never planned on purchasing any drugs with the money; instead, Young intended to "rip [Charley] off." Following Young and Charley's meeting, Young received a call from Ycedra, who stated a van with five individuals[2] came to the Residence looking for Young, which prompted him to purchase a .40 caliber Smith & Wesson firearm from "a random dude on the street." Ycedra testified the Residence's other occupants[3] recognized something was "going on" with Young and left the Residence out of fear, leaving only Ycedra, Young, and Wrighton at the Residence.

         On April 12, 2012, Investigator Robert Shorter, then-chief investigator for Saluda County's sheriff's office, received information from an individual in the Williston Police Department. The individual indicated Charley and others would be traveling from Barnwell County to Saluda County that night seeking to retaliate against some individuals as a result of something that occurred earlier that week. After receiving the tip, Investigator Shorter issued a "be-on-the-lookout" advisement to the night shift officers, warning them of armed and dangerous individuals, including Charley, who were potentially seeking to retaliate against Young. Investigator Shorter further advised officers that Charley was likely heading to the Residence because Young might be hiding there.

         Ycedra testified she and Wrighton were in the den of the Residence while Young was in his bedroom that night. Shortly after midnight, Ycedra heard a dog barking, went to look out the window, and saw two people in the driveway approaching the Residence. Ycedra yelled to Young that people were outside, and he told her to turn off the lights. At that point, Wrighton went to the door to check outside and the people began shooting at him. Wrighton ran back into the den, grabbed Ycedra, threw her down to the floor, and lay down with her. Thereafter, Young fired several shots back at the shooters through the door. Once the shooting stopped, Ycedra called the police.

         Investigator Shorter testified his office informed him a shooting occurred at the Residence. Law enforcement arrested Williams and OJ Charley shortly after midnight. When Investigator Shorter arrived at the Residence, the scene was secure and officers had Williams and Charley in custody. Investigator Shorter observed multiple bullet holes in the walls and door of the Residence as well as shell casings in the yard and inside the Residence. He also noted the door "had bullet holes going both ways, bullets going in, bullets coming out."

         On July 9, 2013, a grand jury indicted Williams for three counts of attempted murder. The case was called for a jury trial on October 14, 2013. At trial, Charley testified for the defense. Charley admitted he was involved in the shooting incident at the Residence. He testified that a few days before he participated in the shooting incident, he went to the Residence and met with Young. Charley stated he and Young drove to a laundromat, and once they arrived, Young pointed a gun at Charley and stole $32, 000 from him. Charley testified he returned to the Residence the night of the shooting incident with Williams, whom he referred to as the driver. Charley stated he offered to pay Williams to drive and told Williams they were going to see some girls. According to Charley, Williams had no idea the shooting incident was about to take place. Charley stated Williams was also unaware another individual, Rico, was following them in another vehicle. Charley testified he left Williams in the van and met up with Rico, who had two handguns in his possession. Charley stated that as he and Rico approached the Residence, Young opened the front door and fired two shots in the air. Charley stated he then fired a shot in the air and then his gun jammed. He ran back to the van and was soon arrested, but he believed Rico stayed and continued to fire shots toward the Residence.

         On cross-examination, the State questioned Charley about the plea deal he received in exchange for testifying against Williams. Charley acknowledged he was double-crossing the State and had lied to the jury on direct examination to help Williams.[4] Charley subsequently testified Williams was entirely aware of Charley's intentions when they went to the Residence and eventually confessed to lying about Rico's involvement in the shooting incident. When asked whether he and Williams went to the Residence to kill Young, Charley stated, "No. I came back to get my money. If killing was in the process, I mean, I don't -- I can't say what would have happened, but I did come back to get my money." Additionally, Charley testified Williams had a handgun, participated in the shooting incident, and agreed to help Charley because Charley offered to pay Williams a portion of the money they recovered from Young.

         After the defense rested its case, Williams objected to several of the circuit court's jury charges, including an inferred malice charge and a transferred intent charge. Additionally, Williams objected to the circuit court's failure to give a charge on the lesser included offenses of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (ABHAN) and first-degree and second-degree assault and battery. The circuit court found all of the evidence in the case "goes to the alleged crime where [Williams] . . . shot up [the Residence] with the intent to kill an individual who was within the home and there happened to be two other individuals in there as well." The court found the evidence "devoid of any lesser included offense indicia" and declined to give the requested charges. At the conclusion of the three-day trial, the jury convicted Williams for the attempted murders of Young, Ycedra, and Wrighton. The circuit court sentenced Williams to concurrent terms of twenty years' imprisonment. This appeal followed.


I. Did the circuit court err in refusing to charge the jury on the lesser included offense of first-degree assault and battery when it charged the jury on attempted murder?
II. Did the circuit court err in charging the jury on the doctrine of transferred intent?


         "In criminal cases, [the appellate court] sits to review errors of law only and is bound by the factual findings of the [circuit] court unless an abuse of discretion is shown." State v. Laney, 367 S.C. 639, 643, 627 S.E.2d 726, 729 (2006). "An abuse of discretion occurs when the conclusions of the [circuit] court either lack evidentiary support or are controlled by an error of law." State v. Pagan, 369 S.C. 201, 208, 631 S.E.2d 262, 265 (2006).


         I. Lesser Included Offense Charge

         Williams first argues the circuit court committed error by refusing to charge the jury on the lesser included offense of first-degree assault and battery when it charged the jury on attempted murder. We agree, but we find this error to be harmless.

         "In reviewing jury charges for error, we must consider the [circuit] court's jury charge as a whole in light of the evidence and issues presented at trial." State v. Adkins, 353 S.C. 312, 318, 577 S.E.2d 460, 463 (Ct. App. 2003). The circuit "court is required to charge only the current and correct law of South Carolina." State v. Brandt, 393 S.C. 526, 549, 713 S.E.2d 591, 603 (2011) (quoting Sheppard v. State, 357 S.C. 646, 665, 594 S.E.2d 462, 472 (2004)). "The [circuit court] is to charge the jury on a lesser included offense if there is any evidence from which the jury could infer that the lesser, rather than the greater, offense was committed." State v. Watson, 349 S.C. 372, 375, 563 S.E.2d 336, 337 (2002). "A [lesser included] offense is one whose elements are wholly contained within the crime charged." State v. Dickerson, 395 S.C. 101, 118, 716 S.E.2d 895, 904 (2011). However, even if the elements of the greater offense do not include all the elements of the lesser ...

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