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State v. Broadnax - 414 S.C. 468, 779 S.E.2d 789 (2015)

Rule:

The South Carolina Court of Appeals overrules Al-Amin, and reaffirms the rule as formulated in Bryant that armed robbery is not a crime of dishonesty or false statement for purposes of impeachment under S.C. R. Evid. 609(a)(2).

Facts:

For robbing a store in Columbia, respondent was charged with one count of armed robbery and four counts of kidnapping. After the State rested, respondent indicated that he would testify in his own defense. Consequently, the State moved to admit respondent’s prior criminal record for purposes of impeachment. The trial court heard arguments and conducted an inquiry into which of respondent’s prior convictions should be admitted. Pursuant to Rule 609(a)(2), SCRE, and the court of appeals’ opinion in State v. Al-Amin, the trial court admitted three of respondent’s four prior armed robbery convictions. The trial judge then instructed the jury that respondent’s prior convictions for armed robbery could be considered only in deciding whether or not respondent’s testimony was believable. The jury found respondent guilty of armed robbery and four counts of kidnapping, and the trial judge sentenced respondent to a mandatory minimum sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole based on respondent’s prior armed robbery convictions. On appeal to the court of appeals, respondent argued that the trial court erred in admitting his prior armed robbery conviction for impeachment purposes. The court of appeals reversed and remanded the case to the trial court for a new trial. According to the court of appeals, respondent’s prior armed robbery convictions did not constitute crimes of dishonesty, and therefore, the trial court should have conducted a balancing test prior to admitting testimony regarding respondent’s prior armed robbery convictions.

Issue:

Were respondent’s prior armed robbery convictions crimes of dishonesty, and thus, admissible under Rule 609(a)(2), SCRE?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Court held that the admission of three of respondent's four prior armed robbery convictions for purposes of impeachment in his trial on charges of kidnapping and armed robbery was error under S.C. R. Evid. 609(a)(2), as they were not crimes of dishonesty or false statement for purposes of automatic admissibility. Accordingly, the holding in Al-Amin was overruled, and the rule that armed robbery was not a crime of dishonesty or false statement for purposes of impeachment under Rule 609(a)(2) was affirmed. However, the Court held that any error in admitting respondent's prior armed robbery convictions was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt in the circumstances, as the other evidence of respondent's guilt was overwhelming.

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