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Chappell v. State

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

December 31, 2019

Frederick Robert Chappell, Petitioner,
v.
State of South Carolina, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-000283

          Heard November 5, 2019

          Appeal from Greenville County Perry H. Gravely, Post-Conviction Relief Court Judge.

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

          Deputy Chief Appellate Defender Wanda H. Carter, of Columbia, for Petitioner.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Taylor Zane Smith, of Columbia, for Respondent.

          THOMAS, J.

         Petitioner Frederick Robert Chappell appeals the dismissal of his post-conviction relief (PCR) application, arguing the PCR court erred in denying his claim for ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel did not object when the State's expert witness gave improper bolstering testimony. We reverse.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On December 14, 2010, a Greenville County Grand Jury indicted Chappell for first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a minor and lewd act upon a child, and the State called the case to trial in August 2012. On August 7, 2012, after a two-day trial, the jury convicted Chappell of both counts, and the trial court sentenced him to life in prison.[1] Chappell appealed, arguing this court should reverse his convictions because the State's expert witness gave improper vouching testimony. However, in June 2014, this court affirmed Chappell's convictions and held that Chappell's improper vouching claim was not preserved for review. State v. Chappell, Op. No. 2014-UP-272 (S.C. Ct. App. filed June 30, 2014).

         On November 5, 2014, Chappell filed a PCR application, claiming he received ineffective assistance of counsel because his trial counsel failed to object when the State's expert gave improper bolstering testimony. The PCR court held an evidentiary hearing on December 17, 2015. In an order dated January 21, 2016, the PCR court dismissed Chappell's application, finding the State's expert did not make any improper vouching statements. In May 2018, this court granted a writ of certiorari to review the PCR court's ruling.

         At trial, the nine-year-old victim testified her grandmother's former boyfriend, Chappell, had sexually abused her several times when she and her siblings visited her grandmother's home.[2] She alleged that Chappell touched her "private" and "bottom" with his hands and mouth and sometimes forced her to touch his "private." After the victim testified, the jury watched video of a forensic interview in which the victim described the abuse and identified Chappell as the perpetrator.

         The court then held a hearing to determine the admissibility of testimony from the State's expert witness, Ms. Shauna Galloway-Williams. During voir dire, Galloway-Williams testified that she had never interviewed the victim and had not seen the video of the victim's forensic interview. Over trial counsel's objection, the court qualified Galloway-Williams as an expert in child sexual abuse and treatment.

         On direct examination, Galloway-Williams testified to why children who are victims of sexual abuse might not report the abuse right away. Then, without objection from trial counsel, the following exchange occurred between the prosecutor and Galloway-Williams:

Q: . . . Do children lie?
A: Yes.
Q: Okay. Do children lie about things like - of a sexual nature or abuse? And can you tell us the dynamics of lying and sexual abuse?
A: Children lie. Adults lie. But children are not sophisticated liars. And what I mean by that is they really - you know, children, generally, lie to keep themselves out of trouble, you know. If you ask them if they ate the cookie and they have crumbs on their face, ...

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