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2008-UP-534 - State v. Woody

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.

Christopher A. Woody, Appellant.


Appeal from York County
 Lee S. Alford, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2008-UP-534
Submitted September 2, 2008 – Filed September 11, 2008   


AFFIRMED


Chief Attorney Joseph L. Savitz, III, 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 S. Creighton Waters, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Kevin S. Brackett, of York, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Christopher A. Woody, appeals his conviction for murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.   Woody argues the trial court erred in denying his motion for mistrial based on the solicitor’s closing statement.  We affirm.[1]

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

During the State’s closing argument at trial, the solicitor made the following comment:  “Ladies and Gentlemen, this mountain of evidence that stands before you speaks the truth, just as your verdict will speak the truth and that’s what verdict in its original form means, to speak the truth and that’s what I ask you to do.  That’s what the judge asks you to do, that’s what South Carolina asks you to do and that is your duty today, to speak the truth.”  The defense objected to the solicitor’s comments arguing that the remarks gave the jury the impression that the judge was aligned with the State’s position.  The defense requested a mistrial, but that request was denied.  The judge decided to address the question of his neutrality during his charge on the law.  At the beginning of his charge, the judge instructed:

The court is neutral in any case that comes before it insofar as the court is concerned and when the solicitor, I think, mentioned to you in his final argument, I believe, that he asked that you render a verdict which speaks the truth and he says that he judge wants you to do that.  Well, let me say to you that you should not infer from that in any way that the judge is not a neutral party in this case or is aligned with one side or the other in the case, because the judge is not. 

LAW/ANALYSIS

On appeal, Woody argues the trial court erred in denying his motion for mistrial based on the solicitor’s closing statement.  We disagree.  “The decision to grant or deny a mistrial is within the sound discretion of the trial judge.  A mistrial should only be granted when absolutely necessary, and a defendant must show both error and resulting prejudice in order to be entitled to a mistrial.”  State v. Ward, 374 S.C. 606, 612, 649 S.E.2d 145, 148 (Ct. App. 2007) (citations omitted).  “Generally, a curative instruction is deemed to have cured any alleged error.” State v. Patterson, 337 S.C. 215, 226, 522 S.E.2d 845, 850 (Ct. App. 1999).  Here, the court thoroughly and meticulously instructed the jury to disregard any impermissible inference they may have drawn from the solicitor’s statement and to remember that the judge serves as a neutral party.  Consequently, the court did not abuse its discretion in denying Woody’s motion for mistrial.

AFFIRMED.

Anderson, Williams, and Konduros, JJ., concur.


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