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2004-UP-622 - State v. Blom

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 Joseph Blom, Appellant.


Appeal From Horry County
Paula H. Thomas, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2004-UP-622
Submitted December 1, 2004 – Filed December 10, 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 Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Attorney General Derrick K. McFarland, all of Columbia; and Solicitor John Gregory Hembree, of Conway; for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  William Joseph Blom appeals his murder conviction, arguing the trial court erred in refusing his requested jury charge on circumstantial evidence.  We affirm. [1]

BACKGROUND

Lance Neal was at a bar with friends when he received a phone call.  When the call ended, he said it was from Blom.  Neal said he was going out behind a nearby restaurant to have a “man on man fight” with Blom over Bronna Miller, Blom’s girlfriend and the mother of Neal’s child.  One of Neal’s friends tried unsuccessfully to dissuade him, noting Blom owned a gun.  Outside, Neal was seen sitting in a car with Blom.  The two then got out of the car and were talking.  One State witness testified the two tussled.  Witnesses then heard several shots and saw Neal run away and Blom drive away.  Another bystander saw Neal running after the shots were fired and saw him collapse.  One of Neal’s friends ran down and found him lying in a pool of blood.  Neal died as a result of a gunshot wound to the chest.

After the shooting, an officer looking for Blom’s car encountered John Poston, who said he had seen a man driving a car fitting that description.  Poston said the man stopped the car, got out, squatted down, and extended his hand into some brush on the side of the road.  Poston showed the officer the location, and police found a gun there, hidden under some pine straw. 

The defense asserted Blom shot Neal in self-defense.  The defense introduced testimony that Neal was threatening Blom at the scene, that Neal had been drinking and was a mean drunk, and that he liked to fight and had a reputation for violence and aggression.  Blom, in contrast, was a “perfect gentleman.”  The defense also offered evidence that during the incident, Blom’s shirt was torn, his necklace was broken and ripped off, and his body was bruised and scratched. 

LAW/ANALYSIS

Blom argues the trial court erred in refusing to issue the State v. Edwards circumstantial evidence instruction.  He contends because there was only circumstantial evidence of the exact nature of the confrontation and murder, voluntary manslaughter, and self-defense were jury options, the court should have instructed the jury that it could find him guilty of murder only if the evidence pointed conclusively to his guilt to the exclusion of every other reasonable hypothesis.  We find no error.

The evidence presented at trial determines the law to be charged to the jury.  State v. Taylor, 356 S.C. 227, 231, 589 S.E.2d 1, 3 (2003).  The trial court is only required to charge the current and correct law and a charge that correctly defines the law when read as a whole is proper.  State v. Burkhart, 350 S.C. 252, 261, 565 S.E.2d 298, 302 (2002).

Here, Blom does not dispute the charge issued is essentially the one announced and recommended by our supreme court in State v. Grippon, 327 S.C. 79, 489 S.E.2d 462 (1997).  At trial Blom requested the traditional circumstantial charge from State v. Edwards, 298 S.C. 272, 379 S.E.2d 888 (1989) and State v. Littlejohn, 228 S.C. 324, 89 S.E.2d 924 (1955).  Specifically, he wanted the language that all of the circumstances when taken together must “point conclusively to the guilt of the accused to the exclusion of every other reasonable hypothesis.”  Edwards, 298 S.C. at 275, 379 S.E.2d at 889.  On appeal, he argues that because of the abundance of evidence of a confrontation and the sketchy eyewitness accounts, the court should have issued an Edwards instruction.  However, in Grippon, our supreme court affirmed a trial court’s refusal to charge the language in question.  In Grippon, the appellant argued the trial court’s omission of the reasonable hypothesis language impermissibly lowered the level of proof required for the jury to find him guilty.  Although the trial court incorrectly believed the language had been disapproved, the supreme court noted because the charge given otherwise fully covered the law of circumstantial evidence and the trial court correctly defined reasonable doubt, omission of the reasonable hypothesis language did not affect the burden of proof.  Grippon, 327 S.C. at 82-83, 489 S.E.2d at 463-64.  The supreme court then announced a new recommended charge, which does not contain the “reasonable hypothesis” language.  Id. at 83-84, 489 S.E.2d at 464.  Both the Grippon charge and the Edwards charge were proper in South Carolina at the time of Blom’s trial.  See State v. Needs, 333 S.C. 134, 155-56 & n.13, 508 S.E.2d 857, 868 & n.13 (1998). [2]   Because the trial court here charged the jury with an approved circumstantial evidence charge and, as in Grippon, correctly defined reasonable doubt, we find no error.  State v. Manning, 305 S.C. 413, 417, 409 S.E.2d 372, 375 (1991) (announcing recommended reasonable doubt instruction), abrogation in part on other grounds recognized by Todd v. State, 355 S.C. 396, 585 S.E.2d 305 (2003). 

AFFIRMED.

ANDERSON, STILWELL, and SHORT, JJ., concur.


[1]        We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.

[2]         For the current law on circumstantial evidence jury charges, see State v. Cherry, Op. No. 25902 (S.C. Sup. Ct. filed Nov. 29, 2004) (Shearouse Adv. Sheet No. 46 at 24).