THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
The State, Respondent,
Derrick Smith, Appellant.
Appeal From Richland County
L. Henry McKellar, Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 25010
Heard June 22, 1999 - Filed November 8, 1999
Senior Assistant Appellate Defender Wanda H.
Haile, of South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense,
of Columbia, for appellant.
Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief Deputy
Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant
Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka,
Assistant Attorney General G. Robert DeLoach, III,
and Solicitor Warren B. Giese, all of Columbia, for
PER CURIAM: Appellant was convicted of murder and assault
and battery with intent to kill (ABIK) 1 and sentenced to life and ten years'
imprisonment, respectively. He appeals.
and involuntary manslaughter and assault and battery of a high and
Shortly before midnight on October 14, 1996, appellant shot
and killed his six-week-old daughter, Fuschia, while she was being held by
his wife, the infant's mother, Tammy. The bullet entered Fuschia's chest,
exited through her back, and lodged in Tammy's clavicle. Appellant
claimed the shooting was an accident.
A neighbor testified, while at home with the television on, he
heard Tammy say several times, "[a]ppellant, get away from me when I
am holding the baby." Fifteen seconds later, the neighbor heard a
gunshot, went outside, and saw a man running in the alley. The neighbor
characterized Tammy's voice as loud and argumentative.
A paramedic testified when he arrived at the scene of the
shooting, the infant was unresponsive. 2He testified Tammy stated "she
was involved with an argument and that mother - - - - er shot her." She
stated "I cannot he (sic) believe he got mad and shot me." Another
paramedic testified Tammy stated she and appellant were arguing and he
An investigator who interviewed Tammy shortly after the
shooting testified Tammy stated appellant had been drinking. They were
arguing over a car. Appellant obtained his pistol, pointed it at her, and
then fired a shot inside the home. Tammy picked up the baby and went
outside. Appellant followed Tammy outside then shot her while she was
The investigator asked Tammy the following questions:
Q. Why do you think [appellant] shot you?
A. He was mad and had been drinking.
Q. Did he tell you he was going to shoot you?
A. He said, "if I ever catch you with anybody I will blow both of
arrived at the hospital.
your brains out, because I love you."
Although she gave a written statement to the police indicating
she and her husband were arguing and the shooting was intentional, at
trial Tammy testified appellant was unloading his pistol when the shooting
occurred. Contrary to her written statement, Tammy denied appellant
threatened to "blow [her] brains out," denied he struck her in the face,
denied pleading with appellant not to touch her while she held Fuschia,
and denied she left her home to telephone the police. She testified she did
not remember giving a statement to the police.
Three hours after the shooting, Curtis Weathersbee gave the
On 10-15 (sic) -96 1 was in [appellant's] house, watching a
football, the football game. Earlier [Tammy and appellant]
were having a verbal confrontation because she went to her
cousin's house and stayed too long. He was explaining that
she should not be gone from the baby that long because the
baby was sick. While raving at her he was constantly
threatening her that he would shoot her head off, shoot her in
As he told her that he was approaching the bedroom to get a
pistol. He stood in the kitchen, with the pistol beside him, just
wobbling from left to right with an angry look on his face.
That is when the pistol went off. After that he went and put
the pistol back in the bedroom. He came back out and was
pacing the floor constantly. threatening her. Tammy grabbed
her baby and said, 'oh, Lord, let me get up and go.'
By the time she got at the car trying to leave, that is when he
left out the door with the pistol. The door slammed shut. I
heard Tammy holler. I was praying that it would not happen.
But I heard a shot. I jumped, stating - - I jumped up and as I
was approaching the door, [appellant] ran back in the house
stating, 'I believe that I shot Tammy.'
Mr. Weathersbee testified his statement was involuntary; he
stated he was threatened by an investigator. He testified he did not
remember telling the investigator appellant had threatened to shoot
Tammy's "head off' or in the face. He admitted appellant and Tammy had
argued and appellant was "real upset" and "hollering."
Through a written statement, appellant indicated he was
removing the pistol from his trouser pocket when it fired. Appellant did
not testify at trial.
1. Did the trial judge err by allowing the solicitor to refer to
appellant's July 1996 criminal domestic violence conviction?
11. Did the trial judge err by charging the jury on unlawful
possession of a weapon?
Appellant argues the trial judge erred in admitting his July
1996 criminal domestic violence conviction because there was insufficient
connection between the prior conviction and the murder charge. We
Prior to trial, the solicitor moved to be allowed to introduce
evidence of the ongoing abusive relationship between appellant and
Tammy. Specifically, the solicitor moved to introduce appellant's four
criminal domestic violence convictions in order to establish appellant's
state of mind at the time of the shooting and to rebut his claim of
accident.3Appellant argued there was no similarity between the prior
convictions and the current charge and, therefore, the convictions were
inadmissible. The trial judge ruled the July 1996 criminal domestic
violence conviction was admissible and that he would determine whether
the other convictions were admissible.
During trial, Tammy testified on direct examination:
Q. Isn't it a fact, Tammy, that not three months before this
incident, when you were pregnant with Fuschia, [appellant]
assaulted you, not once but twice?
A. We were having verbal conversation and to keep it down, I
called the police because we was having an argument and I
wanted to get in the car and leave, and we kept having an
argument, so I called the police. They insinuated that.
Q. Isn't it a fact that you filed two police reports within thirty
minutes of each other on July 10, 1996, against your husband?
A. I could have. I do not remember.
Q. And went to court on one of them. Correct?
A. I could have.
Q. And he was convicted. Correct?
A. I think just on one.
Q. Of criminal domestic violence against his eight month
pregnant wife. Correct?
A. I am not sure.
Generally, a motion in limine seeks a pretrial evidentiary
ruling to prevent the disclosure of potentially prejudicial matter to the
jury. State v. Hill, 331 S.C. 94, 501 S.E.2d 122 (1998); State v. Floyd, 295
S.C. 518, 369 S.E.2d 842 (1988). A pretrial ruling on the admissibility of
evidence is preliminary and is subject to change based on developments at
trial. Id. A ruling in limine is not final; unless an objection is made at
the time the evidence is offered and a final ruling procured, the issue is
not preserved for review. State v. Mitchell, 330 S.C. 18% 498 S.E.2d 642
(1998); State v. Simpson, 325 S.C. 37, 479 S.E.2d 57 (1996).
Appellant failed to object to the solicitor's questions concerning
his July 1996 criminal domestic violence conviction. Accordingly, this
issue is not preserved for consideration on appeal. State v. Mitchell,
In any event, as a general rule, "[e]vidence of other crimes,
wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove the character of a person in
order to show action in conformity therewith." Rule 404(b), SCRE; see
State v. Jenkins, 322 S.C. 414, 472 S.E.2d 251 (1996)(evidence of other
crimes, wrongs, or acts is not admissible to prove a defendant committed
the specific crime charged). However, evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or
acts is admissible if it tends to establish motive, intent, the absence of
mistake or accident, identity, or the existence of a common scheme or
plan. Rule 404(b), SCRE.4The evidence must be logically relevant to the
particular purpose or purposes for which it is sought to be introduced.
State v. Bell, 302 S.C. 18, 393 S.E.2d 364 (1990). Even if the prior crime
evidence is relevant, it must be excluded if its probative value is
substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to the
defendant. Rule 403, SCRE; State v. King, Op. No. 24916 (S.C. Sup. Ct.
filed March 8, 1999)(Shearouse Adv. Sh. No. 10 at 31).
The solicitor properly offered appellant's July 1996 criminal
domestic violence conviction to establish appellant's intent to kill and the
absence of mistake or accident. The prior conviction was logically relevant
to appellant's intent and absence of mistake or accident at the time of the
shooting. 5 See State v. Key, 277 S.C. 214, 284 S.E.2d 781 (1981)(in trial
for aggravated assault and battery arising from a shooting at defendant's
store, testimony defendant had threatened victim's associate two or three
times with a gun at the store was admissible to show absence of mistake
or accident). We conclude the probative value of the prior conviction was
S.C. 406, 118 S.E. 803 (1923).
5 The State's case involved the doctrine of transferred intent. Under
the doctrine of transferred intent, i'the actor's intent to kill his intended
victim is said to be transferred to his actual victim. All that is required of
murder is the mental state of malice, provided by the intent to kill a
human being coupled with an act which caused the death of a human
being." State v. Horne, 282 S.C. 444, 446, 319 S.E.2d 703, 704 (1984).
Here, the State theorized appellant intended to kill Tammy. Instead, he
shot and killed Fuschia. His intent to kill Tammy supplied the element of
not outweighed by unfair prejudice to appellant. The trial judge did not
abuse his discretion in admitting appellant's July 1996 criminal domestic
violence conviction. State v. Nance, 320 S.C. 501, 466 S.E.2d 349
(1996)(the admission of evidence is within the discretion of the trial court
and will not be reversed by this Court absent an abuse of discretion).
Appellant argues the trial judge erred by charging the jury on
the statutory offense of unlawful possession of a weapon. He contends
there is no requirement the trial judge instruct the jury on the unlawful
possession statute and, further, the charge constituted a conu-nent on the
facts in violation of Article V, § 21 of the South Carolina Constitution.
While discussing the proposed jury charge, the solicitor agreed
appellant was entitled to an instruction on accident. The trial judge
stated he would instruct the jury on the unlawful pistol statute.6
Appellant objected, arguing there was no evidence as to whether he was
either on or off of his property at the time of the shooting. The trial judge
overruled the objection then charged the jury on accident and the unlawful
Appellant's present argument is not preserved for consideration
on appeal. Prior to the charge, appellant objected to instructing the jury
on the statute, arguing there was no evidence as to his location at the
time of the shooting. He did not claim, as he does now, that there is no
requirement the trial judge instruct the jury on the unlawful possession
statute or the charge constituted a comment on the facts in violation of
the Constitution. Since he did not object at trial on the same grounds as
raised on appeal, the issue is not preserved for review. State v. Ard, 332
S.C. 370, 505 S.E.2d 328 (1998)(failure to object to jury charge constitutes
a waiver of the right to raise the issue on appeal); State v. Byram, 326
S.C. 107, 485 S.E.2d 360 (1997)(defendant may not argue one ground
below and another on appeal).
the person any pistol, whether concealed or not, except as follows: ... (8)
Any person in his home, or upon his real property, or fixed place of
business." S.C. Code Ann. § 16-23-20(8)(Supp. 1998).