Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Site Map | Feedback
2004-UP-192 - State v. Seich
FACTS

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals


The State,        Respondent,

v.

William Charles Seich,        Appellant.


Appeal From Spartanburg County
J. Derham Cole, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2004-UP-192
Submitted December 8, 2003 – Filed March 22, 2004


AFFIRMED


Assistant Appellate Defender Robert M. Dudek, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster; Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh; Assistant Deputy Attorney General Charles H. Richardson; Senior Assistant Attorney General William Edgar Salter III, of Columbia; Solicitor Harold W. Gowdy III, of Spartanburg; for Respondent.

PER CURIAM: William Charles Seich (“Seich”) was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.  Seich argues on appeal the circuit court erred by admitting into evidence a bullet found at the unsecured crime scene nine days after the murder.  We affirm.

FACTS

On October 28, 2001, a shooting incident took place at the home of Patricia Parris (“Parris”) that resulted in her death.  According to Parris’s daughters, eleven year-old Deann Wilson (“Deann”) and fourteen year-old Janice Wilson (“Janice”), Seich was drinking liquor when they arrived home that evening with their mother.  Deann testified Parris and Seich began arguing and Seich pushed Parris and pulled her by the hair.   Parris placed a call to 911.   Deann testified she and Parris ran outside when Seich pulled out a gun.  Janice was not able to exit the mobile home.   Janice testified Seich pushed her back into the mobile home, causing her to fall on the floor.  Deann stated after she and Parris ran outside, “the police pulled up and he [Seich] shot Momma.”

When Officers Kevin Carper (“Carper”) and Jeremy Soukup (“Soukup”) arrived at the scene, they observed Parris and Seich on the front porch.  Soukup testified he “heard two, sounded like a cannon to me, shots at point blank range, which I mean is less than a foot, and Mrs. Parris disappeared off that front porch.”  Soukup said he and Carper drew fire at Seich to protect Parris and Deann.  Soukup and Carper both testified they did not fire their weapons until Seich fired his gun and they saw Parris fall.  Officer Carper accidentally shot Janice when he was firing at Seich.   Janice testified after she and Seich were shot, he started saying he loved her and was sorry he shot Parris.

The police used 9mm guns and Seich used a .44 Magnum pistol.   When the SLED agents processed the crime scene on the night of the shooting, they used a metal detector and found seventeen 9mm cartridge casings outside.   Inside, they found Seich’s gun with four unfired bullets and two fired cartridge casings, a .44 caliber fired cartridge casing, and a fired projectile.  They also found a spent projectile from a .44 caliber weapon in the dishwasher of an adjacent mobile home.

Nine days after the incident, one of the agents returned to the scene, which had been unsecured since the shooting, and found a spent .44 caliber bullet outside on the ground in the approximate location where Parris’s body had been dragged.  The State offered the bullet into evidence, and Seich moved to exclude it.  The trial judge allowed the bullet into evidence, but limited the applicable testimony to the fact it was found at the scene.

Dr. David Wren, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on Parris, testified Parris died from a single gunshot wound to the chest and the injury to the chest was more likely caused by a .44 caliber weapon than a 9mm weapon.    

The jury convicted Seich of murder and the trial judge sentenced him to life imprisonment without parole.  Seich appeals.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court may not reverse the trial court’s ruling on the admissibility of evidence absent an abuse of discretion or the commission of legal error that results in prejudice to the defendant. State v. Gaster, 349 S.C. 545, 557, 564 S.E.2d 87, 93 (2002); State v. Adams, 354 S.C. 361, 377, 580 S.E.2d 785, 793 (Ct. App. 2003) (cert. pending).  “An abuse of discretion occurs when the judge’s ruling has no evidentiary support.”  State v. Manning, 329 S.C. 1, 7, 495 S.E.2d 191, 194 (1997).     

LAW/ANALYSIS

Seich argues the trial court erred by admitting the bullet into evidence.  We find any error committed by the trial court was harmless.

Seich contends the State failed to lay a proper foundation to connect the bullet to the crime.  Furthermore, Seich argues the introduction of the .44 caliber bullet invited speculation about its connection to the shooting.   

Although it is troubling the bullet was found nine days after the shooting, and from an unsecured crime scene, we find, even assuming the trial court erred in allowing it into evidence, the error was harmless.  “Error is harmless where it could not reasonably have affected the result of the trial.”  Adams, 354 S.C. at 380, 580 S.E.2d at 795; State v. Burton, 326 S.C. 605, 610, 486 S.E.2d 762, 764 (Ct. App. 1997).  Appellate courts will not set aside convictions due to insubstantial errors not affecting the result.  State v. Sherard, 303 S.C. 172, 176, 399 S.E.2d 595, 597 (1991); State v. Livingston, 282 S.C. 1, 6, 317 S.E.2d 129, 132 (1984).  “An insubstantial error not affecting the result of the trial is harmless where ‘guilt has been conclusively proven by competent evidence, such that no other rational conclusion can be reached.’”  Adams, 354 S.C. at 380, 580 S.E.2d at 795 (quoting State v. Bailey, 298 S.C. 1, 5, 377 S.E.2d 581, 584 (1989)).

Notwithstanding the admission of the bullet, the State presented abundant evidence proving Seich’s guilt.  For example, Deann testified she saw Seich shoot her mother.   Janice also testified Seich said he was sorry he shot her mother.  Officers Soukup and Carper testified they did not begin firing until they saw Parris fall.  

In addition, the pathologist’s testimony regarding the gunshot wounds provides evidence of Seich’s guilt.  He testified the fatal wound to Parris’s chest was approximately .41 inches by .60 inches in diameter.  The diameter of a 9mm bullet is .354 inches, whereas the diameter of a .44 caliber bullet is .44 inches.  Based on the size of Parris’s wound, the pathologist determined it was more likely caused by the larger .44 caliber bullet.   Because Seich was using a .44 caliber weapon and the officers were using 9mm weapons, the pathologist’s testimony is strong evidence proving Seich’s guilt.

CONCLUSION

Based on the above evidence of Seich’s guilt, we find any error committed by the trial court in admitting the .44 caliber bullet into evidence was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.  Allowing the bullet into evidence did not result in any prejudice to Seich.  Accordingly, the decision of the trial judge is

AFFIRMED.

GOOLSBY and ANDERSON, JJ., and CURETON, AJ., concur.