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2008-UP-131 - State v. Owens

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.

Jimmy L. Owens, Jr., Appellant.


Appeal From Horry County
John L. Breeden, Jr., Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2008-UP-131
Heard February 12, 2008 – Filed February 20, 2008


AFFIRMED


Appellate Defender LaNelle C. DuRant, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, Assistant Attorney General Deborah R. J. Shupe, all of Columbia; and Solicitor John Gregory Hembree, of Conway, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  A jury found Jimmy Owens, Jr. guilty of criminal sexual conduct (CSC) with a minor in the first degree and lewd act on a minor.  The trial court sentenced Owens to thirty years for the CSC charge and fifteen years for the lewd act to run consecutively.  Owens appeals the trial court’s admission of evidence and qualification of an expert witness.  We affirm.

1. Owens argues the trial court erred in admitting a recorded phone call Owens made to his mother while incarcerated.  At trial, counsel for Owens argued the tape recording was prejudicial and did not constitute a statement against interest.  Rule 801 (d)(2), SCRE allows the admission of a statement offered against a party if the statement is “the party’s own statement in either an individual or a representative capacity.”  At the beginning of the phone call, a recording alerted Owens the call is subject to monitoring and recording; however, Owens still made admissions.  Owens said the State would argue the victim’s mother was at fault.  Owens stated, among other things, “[b]ecause she [victim’s mother] knew what I were (sic) before I come in the house.  Therefore, she give (sic) me ample opportunity to mess with them kids.”  Despite Owens’s contention otherwise, this recording could be reasonably construed as containing inculpatory evidence.  Therefore, the trial court did not abuse its discretion.

2. Owens contends the trial court abused its discretion in certifying Cathie Coons, a forensic interviewer, as an expert.  Coons’s extensive experience indicates no abuse of discretion was made.  Coons received certification from professional societies, conducted over 400 forensic interviews, observed over 400 forensic interviews, attended training programs, and testified multiple times in family court as an expert in forensic interviews.  See Gooding v. St. Francis Xavier Hosp., 326 S.C. 248, 252-53, 487 S.E.2d 596, 598 (1997) (“[A] witness must have acquired by reason of study or experience or both such knowledge and skill in a profession or science that he is better qualified than the jury to form an opinion on the particular subject of his testimony.”).  Additionally, Coons’s testimony regarding the victim’s interview was merely cumulative to the victim’s testimony before the trial court.

3. Owens additionally assigns error to the trial court’s sua sponte questioning of Coons, while in the jury’s presence, as to whether Coons believed the victim was telling the truth.  Coons responded in the affirmative.  We decline to address this issue because a contemporaneous objection was not made at trial.  See State v. Johnson, 363 S.C. 53, 58, 609 S.E.2d 520, 523 (2005) (requiring a contemporaneous objection with specificity for the issue to be preserved).

Accordingly, we affirm the trial court’s admittance of the recording and certification of Coons as an expert.

AFFIRMED.

HUFF, KITTREDGE, and WILLIAMS, JJ., concur.