|Case of the Month|
The State, Respondent, v. Gary White, Petitioner
Petitioner was convicted of kidnapping and two counts of armed robbery and sentenced to two concurrent terms of life imprisonment without parole.
Petitioner was arrested after a dog with a law enforcement K9 unit tracked a scent from the location of the robbery to some bushes where petitioner was found with a gun. At trial, the judge, over petitioner’s objection, qualified the dog handler as an expert in the field of K9 tracking and handling pursuant to Rule 702, SCRE.
Following petitioner’s conviction, he filed an appeal in the South Carolina Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals affirmed petitioner’s conviction, finding the dog handler was properly qualified as an expert based on specialized knowledge, skill, and experience in the use of a scent-tracking dog. Furthermore, the Court of Appeals determined that even if the admission of the dog handler’s testimony amounted to error, such error was harmless because ample evidence linked petitioner to the crimes charged.
In addition, during petitioner’s appeal to the Court of Appeals, witness Anthony Morris, petitioner’s co-defendant who had testified against petitioner at trial, issued a written statement retracting his testimony. Petitioner then moved for a new trial, or alternatively, for remand to the trial court for a hearing on newly discovered evidence. The Court of Appeals denied the motion.
Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the South Carolina Supreme Court arguing the Court of Appeals should have required the State to demonstrate the underlying reliability of dog tracking and that the Court of Appeals erred in finding he was not entitled to a new trial or a hearing on remand after Morris retracted his testimony. The Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of certiorari. The matter will be argued on Wednesday, February 04, 2009, at 10:30 a.m.
View Oral Arguments
(43 minutes playing time)