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2011-UP-496 - State v. Coaxum

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

The State, Respondent,

v.

William Coaxum, Sr., Appellant.


Appeal From Charleston County
R. Markley Dennis, Jr., Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2011-UP-496
Heard September 12, 2011 – Filed November 7, 2011 


REVERSED AND REMANDED


Appellate Defender Elizabeth A. Franklin-Best, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, and Senior Assistant Attorney General Norman Mark Rapoport, and Assistant Attorney General Mark R. Farthing all of Columbia; Solicitor Scarlett Anne Wilson, of Charleston, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM: William Coaxum, Sr., appeals his convictions for armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent felony, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing a juror who revealed she was acquainted with a member of Coaxum's family.  We reverse and remand for a new trial.

When a juror conceals information inquired into during voir dire, a new trial is required only when the court finds the juror intentionally concealed the information, and that the information concealed would have supported a challenge for cause or would have been a material factor in the use of the party's peremptory challenges.  Where a juror, without justification, fails to disclose a relationship, it may be inferred, nothing to the contrary appearing, that the juror is not impartial.  On the other hand, where the failure to disclose is innocent, no such inference may be drawn.

State v. Woods, 345 S.C. 583, 587-88, 550 S.E.2d 282, 284 (2001) (internal citation omitted); see State v. Stone, 350 S.C. 442, 448, 567 S.E.2d 244, 247 (2002) (providing the factors to consider before removing a juror for failure to disclose information during voir dire are (1) whether the concealment was intentional, and (2) whether the information would have been a material factor in the use of a peremptory challenge or would have supported a challenge for cause).

When a party contends a juror should be removed for failure to disclose information during voir dire, Stone requires the trial judge to consider the two criteria from Woods.  If the judge finds both of the Woods criteria exist, the judge must remove the juror.  However, if either of the criteria is absent, the judge may not remove the juror on that basis.

State v. Burgess, 391 S.C. 15, 19, 703 S.E.2d 512, 514 (Ct. App. 2010); see generally State v. Bell, 374 S.C. 136, 148, 646 S.E.2d 888, 895 (Ct. App. 2007) (stating where there is no concealment, "the language from Stone regarding whether the information would have been a material factor in the use of a peremptory challenge" does not apply); id. (reviewing the trial court's decision to allow a juror to remain on the jury under the abuse of discretion standard).

Here, there was no evidence the juror's failure to disclose her relationship was intentional.  Under Woods and its progeny, the unintentional failure to disclose does not provide an automatic ground for the trial court to remove the juror.  Thus, we hold the trial court abused its discretion in removing the juror.  Accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new trial.

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

SHORT, WILLIAMS, and GEATHERS, JJ., concur.