April 11, 2017
From Richland County DeAndrea G. Benjamin, Circuit Court
Judge J. C. Nicholson, Jr., Circuit Court Judge
Appellate Defender Robert Michael Dudek; and Allen Mattison
Bogan and Nicholas Andrew Charles, both of Nelson Mullins
Riley & Scarborough, LLP; all of Columbia, for Appellant.
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Deputy Attorney General
Donald J. Zelenka, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General
Melody Jane Brown; and Solicitor Daniel Edward Johnson, all
of Columbia, for Respondent.
Eric Hawes appeals his murder conviction, arguing the circuit
court erred in (1) admitting unnecessary and prejudicial
photographic evidence, (2) allowing the State to recall Hawes
to ask a single question intended to elicit testimony that
would permit the State to call impeachment witnesses, (3)
admitting testimony regarding a prior argument between Hawes
and Jennifer Wilson (Victim), and (4) refusing to disqualify
the Fifth Circuit Solicitor's Office from prosecuting the
case. We affirm.
and Procedural History
and Victim met online in February 2011 and began dating
shortly thereafter, though neither behaved as though the
relationship was exclusive. In June 2011, Hawes moved from
Simpsonville to Columbia to be closer to Victim, who was a
professor at the University of South Carolina (USC).
August 27, 2011, Victim texted Hawes and offered to bring him
breakfast on her way to yoga. Following her yoga class,
Victim invited Hawes to her home for lunch. Hawes accepted
and the two spent the afternoon together. Around 5:30 p.m.,
they departed for their respective evening plans.
went to dinner with a friend at Cantina 76 on Devine Street.
He believed Victim planned to attend a coworker's
birthday party and then join him around 8:00 p.m. Over the
course of the evening, however, Victim's itinerary kept
"getting later and later." Hawes left Cantina 76 at
approximately 10:30 p.m.
Victim and a former boyfriend (Friend) attended a surprise
birthday party at Cowboy Steakhouse on Main Street. Shortly
after 10:00 p.m., Victim and Friend traveled from the
restaurant to another friend's house where the birthday
celebration continued. They stopped at Friend's house
around 12:30 a.m.; Victim then attended a party at a fellow
USC professor's house, where she stayed until
approximately 1:30 a.m.
last texted and called Victim shortly after 2:00 a.m. on the
morning of August 28, and then drove to her duplex. According
to Hawes, he told Victim he wanted to end their relationship
and an argument ensued. Ultimately, Hawes stabbed Victim
twelve times,  unclothed her, washed her body, and placed
her on a couch in the living room area. Hawes then cut
his own wrists and collected his blood in a cooler bag.
next-door neighbor at the duplex, Kelly Smith, was awakened
at 2:29 a.m. by sounds of "screaming and physical
violence" and called 911. Two officers from the City of
Columbia Police Department (CPD) arrived at the duplex at
2:47 a.m., but did not enter because they did not observe any
lights, sounds of distress, or signs of a struggle.
the next few hours, Hawes remained in Victim's home and
placed several calls to two former girlfriends (Female 1 and
Female 2, respectively). He also searched the internet for
"criminal attorney[s] in Columbia, South Carolina."
At 5:22 a.m., Hawes sent Female 1 an email with the subject
line "Last Will, " in which he purported to leave
her all of his assets. Around 9:00 a.m., Hawes called a local
attorney and authorized him to report Victim's death.
Thereafter, Hawes called Female 2 and confided he might be
charged with murder and needed $25, 000 for legal
representation. He also claimed he had attempted suicide.
Female 2 told Hawes she did not have $25, 000 and encouraged
him to seek medical attention. EMS subsequently transported
Hawes to Baptist Hospital.
responded to Victim's home at approximately 11:30 a.m.,
where officers found her body on the living room
couch. Although they found blood at the rear
entry to the duplex and in the kitchen, there was very little
blood on Victim or the comforter covering her. Later that
day, CPD officers arrested Hawes at Baptist Hospital and
charged him with murder. On October 5, 2011, the Richland
County Grand Jury indicted Hawes for murder.
December 12, 2012, Hawes moved to disqualify the Fifth
Circuit Solicitor's Office from prosecuting the case
because an assistant solicitor and her husband were fact
witnesses. Following a hearing, the circuit court denied the
motion. The case went to trial on October 6, 2014. The
circuit court denied Hawes's motions for directed verdict
and instructed the jury on the elements of murder, voluntary
manslaughter, and self-defense. On October 16, 2014, after
two days of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict finding
Hawes guilty of murder. The circuit court sentenced Hawes to
life in prison.
criminal cases, the appellate court sits to review errors of
law only." State v. Wilson, 345 S.C. 1, 5, 545
S.E.2d 827, 829 (2001). This court is "bound by the
trial court's factual findings unless they are clearly
erroneous." Id. at 6, 545 S.E.2d at 829. As to
evidentiary issues, "we are limited to determining
whether the trial judge abused his discretion."
Id. "An abuse of discretion occurs when the
trial court's ruling is based on an error of law or, when
grounded in factual conclusions, is without evidentiary
support." State v. Black, 400 S.C. 10, 16, 732
S.E.2d 880, 884 (2012) (quoting State v. Jennings,
394 S.C. 473, 477-78, 716 S.E.2d 91, 93 (2011)). "To
warrant reversal, an error must result in prejudice to the
appealing party." Id. at 16-17, 732 S.E.2d at
argues the circuit court erred in allowing the State to use
"unnecessary and prejudicial photographic evidence"
during closing argument to arouse the passions and prejudices
of the jury. He asserts the crime scene photographs of
Victim's unclothed body were unfairly prejudicial because
the State juxtaposed them with an irrelevant smiling
photograph of the Victim. Hawes contends the erroneous
admission of State's Exhibits 46 (right neck and breast
wounds), 202 (close-up of neck wound), and 322 (birthday
party photograph) suggested an improper, emotional basis for
the jury to consider, resulting in his conviction.
objected under Rule 401, SCRE, to the introduction of two
photographs of Victim and other guests at the birthday party
Victim attended on the night she was murdered. The circuit
court overruled the objection and admitted the photographs as
State's Exhibits 322 and 325. Hawes later lodged a Rule
403, SCRE, objection to all of the crime scene photographs.
The circuit court excluded several of the photographs and
marked them as "Court's Exhibit 3" to ensure
they would not be submitted to the jury in error. Thereafter,
Hawes again objected to the introduction of the following
photographs from the crime scene: State's Exhibits 31
(the body on the couch), 33 (the body on the couch and cooler
on the floor), 38 (a bite mark), 41 (neck and breast wounds),
42 (breast wound), 45 (left neck wound), 46 (right neck
wound), 54 (left leg bruise), 60 (close-up of a back wound),
and 62 (three back wounds). Hawes argued the crime scene
photographs were "gruesome" and would serve only to
"elicit an emotional response from the jury"
because he did not contest how the body was found.
State v. Collins, 409 S.C. 524, 763 S.E.2d 22
(2014), and State v. Gray, 408 S.C. 601, 759 S.E.2d
160 (Ct. App. 2014), the State argued the crime scene
photographs were "necessary to substantiate material
facts" regarding the "nature of the crime" and
to show evidence of malice. Hawes responded that
Collins and Gray were distinguishable
because those cases addressed only autopsy-related
photographs, which were necessary to corroborate testimony
and rebut opposing testimony, whereas here, the crime scene
photographs were unnecessary for corroboration. The circuit
court ruled the probative value of the crime scene
photographs outweighed their prejudicial effect because they
depicted the scene and location of the body. Further, the
wound photographs were relevant to the issue of malice.
subsequently objected to the introduction of State's
Exhibit 398 (the crime scene video), which was filmed by CPD
crime scene investigator (CSI) George Wise. Specifically,
Hawes objected to the portion of the video showing
Victim's body, just as he had previously objected to the
admission of similar photographs. Lastly, Hawes objected to
the introduction of the autopsy photographs. The circuit
court overruled these objections and allowed the introduction
of the crime scene video and eighteen photographs from
we find Hawes's abandoned his argument regarding
State's Exhibit 398 (the crime scene video) and the
autopsy photographs. Hawes briefly argued in his opening
appellate brief that all of the crime scene photographs, the
crime scene video, and the autopsy photographs should have
been excluded because they were unfairly prejudicial. In his
reply brief, Hawes argues his appellate brief clearly
indicates his appeal includes "all the still photographs
from the scene admitted over trial counsel's
objection" and "the still photographs from the
autopsy." He contends the "outline headings"
and "argument text" in his opening brief establish
that his appeal includes State's Exhibit 398. However,
the "outline heading" simply states, "[t]he
[circuit] [c]ourt wrongly allowed the introduction of
unnecessary, gruesome photographs and video." And the
argument text mentions only that the circuit court admitted
the crime scene video over Hawes's objection. See
Englert, Inc. v. Netherlands Ins. Co., 315 S.C. 300, 304
n.2, 433 S.E.2d 871, 873 n.2 (Ct. App. 1993) (noting a one
sentence argument is too conclusory to present any issue on
appeal). Hawes failed to include the challenged exhibits in
his designation of matter to be included in the record on
appeal, and neither the crime scene video nor the autopsy
photographs appear in the record. See Rule 209 (b),
SCACR ("The Designation must clearly identify what the
party desires to have included in the Record on Appeal . . .
."); Rule 210(h), SCACR ("[T]he appellate court
will not consider any fact that does not appear in the Record
on Appeal."); Helms Realty, Inc. v. Gibson-Wall
Co., 363 S.C. 334, 339, 611 S.E.2d 485, 488 (2005)
(explaining the appellant has the burden of providing a
careful review, we find Hawes abandoned some-but certainly
not all-of his arguments regarding the photographic evidence
introduced at trial. Although his arguments focus on
State's Exhibits 46 (right neck wound), 202 (close-up of
neck wound), and 322 (birthday party photograph), we find
Hawes also preserved his arguments addressing State's
Exhibits 31 (the body on the couch), 33 (the body on the
couch and cooler on the floor), 38 (a bite mark), 41 (neck