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2012-UP-042 - State v. Robinson

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.

Oshaun J. Robinson, Appellant.


Appeal From Greenville County
 C. Victor Pyle, Jr., Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2012-UP-042
Submitted December 1, 2011 – Filed January 25, 2012   


AFFIRMED


Appellate Defender Robert M. Pachak, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, and Assistant Attorney General Deborah R.J. Shupe, all of Columbia; and Solicitor W. Walter Wilkins, III, of Greenville, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Oshaun J. Robinson appeals his convictions for armed robbery, possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime, conspiracy, and assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature.  He argues the trial court committed reversible error in precluding him from cross-examining a witness for the State regarding the sentence he received for charges arising from the same incident.  We affirm.[1]

The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution provides:  "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him."  This encompasses the right to "meaningful cross-examination of adverse witnesses[,]" including the right to cross-examine a witness concerning bias.  State v. Graham, 314 S.C. 383, 385, 444 S.E.2d 525, 527 (1994).  This right to cross-examination entails the "right to cross-examine any State's witness as to possible sentences faced when there exists a substantial possibility the witness would give biased testimony in an effort to have the solicitor highlight to a future court how the witness cooperated in the instant case."  State v. Gillian, 360 S.C. 433, 454, 602 S.E.2d 62, 73 (Ct. App. 2004), aff'd as modified by State v. Gillian, 373 S.C. 601, 646 S.E.2d 872 (2007) (internal quotation marks and alterations omitted).  "A criminal defendant states a violation of the Confrontation Clause by showing that he was prohibited from engaging in otherwise appropriate cross-examination designed to show a prototypical form of bias on the part of the witness . . . ."  Graham, 314 S.C. at 385, 444 S.E.2d at 527 (quoting Delaware v. Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. 673, 680 (1986)). 

The Confrontation Clause does not, however, prevent a trial [court] from imposing any limits on defense counsel's inquiry into the potential bias of a prosecution witness.  On the contrary, trial [courts] retain wide latitude insofar as the Confrontation Clause is concerned to impose reasonable limits on such cross-examination based on concerns about, among other things, harassment, prejudice, confusion of the issues, witness' safety, or interrogation that is repetitive or only marginally relevant.

Id. (quoting Van Arsdall, 475 U.S. at 679).       

"A violation of the defendant's Sixth Amendment right to confront the witness is not per se reversible error if the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt."  State v. Gillian, 360 S.C. 433, 454, 602 S.E.2d 62, 73 (Ct. App. 2004) (internal quotation marks and emphasis omitted).  "Harmless beyond a reasonable doubt means the reviewing court can conclude the error did not contribute to the verdict beyond a reasonable doubt."  Id. at 455, 602 S.E.2d at 74 (internal quotation marks omitted).

Whether an error is harmless depends on the particular facts of each case and upon a host of factors, including:

the importance of the witness' testimony in the prosecution's case, whether the testimony was cumulative, the presence or absence of evidence corroborating or contradicting the testimony of the witness on material points, the extent of cross-examination otherwise permitted, and of course the overall strength of the prosecution's case.

Id. at 455, 602 S.E.2d at 73-74 (quoting State v. Mizzell, 349 S.C. 326, 333, 563 S.E.2d 315, 318-19 (2002)).  

Here, although the trial court precluded Robinson from cross-examining a witness for the State regarding the specific sentence he received for charges arising from the same incident, the court allowed extensive cross-examination of the witness regarding every other aspect of potential bias arising from his cooperation with the State.  Accordingly, we find that, to the extent the trial court erred by precluding evidence of the witness's specific sentence, the error was harmless because such evidence was cumulative and could not reasonably have affected the result of the trial.       

AFFIRMED.

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


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