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State v. White

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

October 17, 2018

The State, Respondent,
v.
David Alan White, Appellant. Appellate Case No. 2016-000616

          Submitted May 1, 2018

          Appeal From Charleston County J. C. Nicholson, Jr., Circuit Court Judge

          Appellate Defender Laura Ruth Baer, of Columbia, for Appellant.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Deputy Attorney General David A. Spencer, both of Columbia, and Solicitor Scarlett Anne Wilson, of Charleston, all for Respondent.

          THOMAS, J.:

         David Alan White appeals his convictions of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (ABHAN) and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. On appeal, White argues the trial court erred by (1) indicating he could not pursue both the defense of accident and self-defense, (2) excluding and limiting his testimony about Joseph Johnson's statements, (3) denying his request for a jury instruction on self-defense, and (4) denying his request for a lesser-included instruction on second-degree assault and battery. We reverse.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On the night of November 27, 2013, Johnson cut White's hair. Sometime later, White cut Johnson's throat.

         White and Johnson were both guests at a friend's backyard gathering. Seven witnesses testified to the events surrounding the incident. Some recalled White and Johnson joking with each other and did not know what caused White to cut Johnson's throat. Others recalled tense interactions between the two.

         White testified he did not mean to injure Johnson and did not aim for Johnson's throat. As White was explaining the conversation he and Johnson had while Johnson cut his hair, the State objected on the basis of hearsay. During an in camera hearing, White testified Johnson told him he used to make shanks in prison. White also testified Johnson told him he had a gun and knife underneath his moped seat. The trial court ruled the shank statement was not admissible because it was a prior act and not relevant to self-defense or accident. However, the trial court allowed White to use the statement to impeach Johnson's earlier testimony that he did not make shanks in prison. The trial court excluded the statement regarding the weapons, finding it was irrelevant and hearsay.

         When White resumed his testimony, he indicated he decided to leave Washington's house and, as he was walking, someone punched him on the side of his head. White stated he had one hand in his pocket and quickly spun around after he was punched. White then noticed Johnson was injured. White explained why he wanted to leave Washington's house: "Because the way things were going in that backyard . . . it could have been worse than what happened" and he "didn't feel comfortable anymore." White clarified he did not mean to swing the knife and did not intend to stab Johnson.

         White stated he "didn't feel threatened but [he] knew [he] had a lot of head injuries in [his] past that [he] thought could have triggered something." White explained the head injuries he suffered in the past: (1) he was hit on the side of his head with a mug and had to get stitches, (2) he was hit by a window pane and had to get stitches, and (3) he had a brain aneurysm. White testified he did not run because he "was more scared than anything" and "did not know" if he could get away safely. He did not believe he could get away because he felt threatened by his conversation with Johnson. White indicated his intent in swinging his arm toward Johnson was to protect himself. White explained why he swung the knife: "Because I got hit; it was a reaction. I didn't realize that I even had the knife like that in my hand in my pocket. I just spin around real quick. I didn't know it was him behind me that close or whatever when I swung my arm." Later, White testified he knew it was Johnson who hit him. White stated he was fearful of Johnson.

         White requested the trial court charge the jury on the defenses of self-defense and accident and the lesser-included offenses of ABHAN, first-degree assault and battery, and second-degree assault and battery. The trial court charged accident, ABHAN, and first-degree assault and battery but refused to charge self-defense and second-degree assault and battery. The jury found White guilty of ABHAN and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. The trial court sentenced him consecutively to five years' imprisonment for the weapons conviction and ten years' imprisonment for the ABHAN conviction. This appeal followed.

         STANDARD ...


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