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24807 - State v. Michael Coffin

Davis Adv. Sh. No. 23
S.E. 2d

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA

In The Supreme Court





The State, Respondent,

v.

Michael Coffin, Appellant.



Appeal From Spartanburg County

J. Derham Cole, Judge





Opinion No. 24807

Heard May 12, 1998 - Filed June 22, 1998





AFFIRMED





Chief Attorney Daniel T. Stacey and Assistant

Appellate Defender Melody J. Brown, both of South

Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, for appellant.





Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Deputy

Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant

Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, all of

Columbia; and Solicitor Holman C. Gossett, of

Spartanburg, for respondent.





MOORE, A.J.: Appellant was convicted of murder, first degree

burglary, assault and battery with intent to kill, and two counts of

possession of a knife during the commission of a violent crime. At trial,

appellant admitted stabbing his girlfriend, Kelly Morris, and a friend,

Terry Wright, in the mobile home where the three of them had been

living. On appeal, appellant challenges only the burglary conviction. He

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STATE v. COFFIN





contends he was lawfully entitled to enter the dwelling where the crimes

were committed and therefore the trial judge erred in denying his motion

for a directed verdict on the burglary charge. We affirm.



FACTS





Kelly Morris leased a mobile home at the Evans Mobile Home Park.

In November 1995, appellant moved in with her and Terry Wright who

was already staying there. Because Kelly's lease provided that a visitor

staying more that five days had to be approved by the landlord, appellant

went to the landlord for approval. The landlord affixed a copy of

appellant's driver's license to the lease which indicated he considered

appellant "a legal qualified person living in that mobile home." Appellant

did not sign the lease but, according to the landlord, he did pay the rent

several times.





On February 22, 1996, appellant and Kelly had an argument and

she threw him out. Appellant took his clothes and left. Appellant

testified he was upset because Kelly gave no explanation and he felt he

should not have to leave since he had paid rent.





Appellant returned to the mobile home two or three times that day

but Kelly told him to go away and refused to answer the door. When

appellant returned later that evening, he thought he could hear Kelly and

Terry having sex in the mobile home. He became enraged and pried the

front door open with a knife. Appellant found Terry in the bedroom and

stabbed him several times. When Terry fled the mobile home, appellant

returned to the living room where he stabbed Kelly, who was drunk and

lying on the couch., and left the scene. Kelly died later at the hospital.

Appellant turned himself in after hearing of her death on a news

broadcast that night.





DISCUSSION





The element of first degree burglary at issue here is the requirement

that the perpetrator enter a dwelling without consent. S.C. Code Ann. §

16-11-311(A) (Supp. 1997). The term "enter a building without consent" is

statutorily defined to mean "to enter a building without the consent of the

person in lawful possession." S.C. Code Am. § 16-11-310(a) (Supp. 1997).1


1 "Building" encompasses the term "dwelling." State v. Goldenbaum, 294

S.C. 455, 365 S.E.2d 731 (1988).

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STATE v. COFFIN





It is undisputed Kelly was a person in lawful possession and that she did

not consent to appellant entering the mobile home at the time of the

stabbings. Appellant claims, however, he too was a person in lawful

possession of the mobile home and therefore he did not need consent to

enter. Appellant points to the evidence he paid rent and was approved by

the landlord.





We find the motion for directed verdict was properly denied based on

evidence appellant was not in lawful possession of the mobile home at the

time of the stabbings. Terry Wright testified Kelly had the only key to

the mobile home. Her name was the only name signed on the lease;

apellant's identification was affixed to it pursuant to a clause requiring

that "visitors" be approved. Further, the landlord testified he had nothing

to do with a lessee's decision to evict an approved visitor.





This evidence supports the inference appellant was a guest in Kelly's

home and she was entitled to terminate appellant's lawful possession by

evicting him as she did before the stabbings occurred. Accordingly, this

evidence presents a jury issue whether appellant was in lawful possession

of the mobile home at the time of the stabbings. Accord State v. Tolbert,

488 N.W.2d 11 (Ct. App. Minn. 1992) (question for jury where defendant's

lawful possession turns on whether defendant was a guest whose tenancy

was effectively terminated by lessee). The charge of burglary was

therefore properly submitted to the jury. See State v. Long, ___ S.C. ___,

480 S.E.2d 62 (1997) (directed verdict properly denied where there is any

direct or substantial circumstantial evidence that reasonably tends to

prove the guilt of the accused or from which his guilt may fairly and

logically be deduced).





AFFIRMED.

FINNEY, C.J., TOAL, WALLER and BURNETT, JJ concur.



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