Wednesday, March 14, 2007

S.C. Court of Appeals holds that a defendant's threats against witnesses are admissible

In State v. Edwards, Edwards was convicted of criminal sexual conduct with a minor. During the trial, the victim’s mother testified that Edwards told her to tell the victim that she should not show up in court “because he had a hit out on her, that she wouldn’t make it through the courtroom doors.” The victim’s mother also testified that Edwards said if he was convicted he would kill the victim when he got out of jail. The trial judge allowed this testimony finding that Edwards’ statements could be construed as an admission of guilt and a threat to punish the witness should the jury find him guilty. Edwards appealed the admission of the threats.

The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Court found that such threats indicate the defendant’s “consciousness of guilt” and are therefore admissible pursuant to Rule 404(b) of the South Carolina Rules of Evidence. This is the first case in South Carolina dealing with the admissibility of threats.

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