|Case of the Month|
The State, Respondent, v. Andres Anthony Torres, Appellant
Appellant was charged with two counts of murder, two counts of armed robbery, and one count each of first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and attempt to burn. The State sought the death penalty against appellant. Following a trial, the jury found appellant guilty as charged and recommended a sentence of death. The trial judge sentenced appellant to death for the murders and imposed consecutive sentences of imprisonment totaling life plus 95 years on the remaining charges.
At trial, the State was allowed to introduce autopsy photographs of the victims over appellant's objection. Appellant now argues the trial judge erred in admitting the photographs because there were not relevant to prove any of the statutory aggravators advanced by the State, and instead served solely to enflame the emotions of the jury.
In addition, during the 24-hour waiting period between the guilt phase and sentencing phase of appellant's trial, appellant was involved in an incident in his jail cell which resulted in him being sprayed with pepper spray and handcuffed. The incident was videotaped. The State was allowed to introduce the video recording during the sentencing phase of appellant's trial over appellant's objection. In his closing argument, the Solicitor referenced the videotape and noted it was an indication of appellant's character and his failure to comply and follow rules. Appellant argues on appeal that the video recording was an improper factor that influenced the jury's decision to recommend a death sentence. Appellant contends the solicitor linked the video to the issues of future dangerousness and inability to adapt to prison. Accordingly, appellant asserts, the introduction of the videotape violated S.C. Code Section Ann. § 16-3-25 (C)(1) and was unfairly prejudicial under Rule 403, SCRE.
This appeal was argued at 10:30 on Wednesday, September 22, 2010, in the Courtroom of the South Carolina Supreme Court.
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