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Case of the Month
March 2009

Case Overview

The State, Respondent, v. Raphael Hernandez, Honorio
Guerrero, and Alfredo Avila-Arjona, Petitioners.

Petitioners were indicted for trafficking approximately nine-hundred pounds of marijuana. A trial was held in Edgefield County June 28 through July 6, 2004. At the conclusion of the State’s case, counsel for petitioners moved for directed verdicts, claiming the State had proved no more than petitioners’ mere presence at the scene and had failed to prove knowledge, a required element to convict a person of trafficking in marijuana. The trial court denied petitioners’ motions for a directed verdict. Petitioners later renewed the motions at the conclusion of their case; however, the trial court again denied the motions. A jury found petitioners guilty of trafficking in marijuana, and the trial court sentenced them to twenty-five years’ imprisonment.

Petitioners filed an appeal in the Court of Appeals. They argued the trial court erred in denying their motions for a directed verdict. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding there was substantial circumstantial evidence to send the case to the jury. State v. Hernandez, Op. No. 2007-UP-183 (S.C. Ct. App. filed April 18, 2007). 1

Petitioners filed a petition for a writ of certiorari in the South Carolina Supreme Court. Petitioners contend that viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, it proved only that someone hired petitioners to rent a truck and help move furniture. The State maintains the trial court properly denied the directed verdict motions because there was substantial circumstantial evidence that went beyond a mere suspicion. The petition was granted. The case is scheduled to be heard on Wednesday, March 4, 2009, at 10:30 a.m.


1 This opinion can be found at http://www.sccourts.org/opinions/displayUnPubOpinion.cfm?caseNo=2007-UP-183



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