Wednesday, December 05, 2007

SC Ct. of Appeals holds trial court did not error in permitting spectators to wear buttons bearing the victim's photo

In State v. Paige, Paige was convicted of manslaughter and requested a new trial because the trial judge denied his request to order the victim's family and friends to remove buttons with the victim's photograph on them. The Court of appeals applied an “actual or inherent prejudicial effect on the jury” test. After reviewing the record, the court found no prejudice.

The record shows the only mention of the buttons was prior to jury selection, and out of the presence of the jury venire, at which time defense counsel had to inquire whether the buttons did in fact depict a picture of the victim. There is no evidence of the size of the buttons, or the number of spectators who wore the buttons. While the trial court stated he would not require the individuals to remove the buttons, he insured that these spectators would not be called as witnesses, nor would they be seated in the front row. He further instructed that these individuals would not be allowed to make gestures, point to the pictures, or do anything in an attempt to influence the jury. Because no other mention was made of the buttons, this court cannot even determine that these spectators remained in the courtroom for the remainder of the trial or, if they did, whether they continued to wear the buttons. Simply put, there is absolutely no evidence of record that the jurors in this matter were ever exposed to these button photos, and, if they were, whether they could perceive that they depicted the victim. Accordingly, we find no actual or inherent prejudice to Paige based on the record before us.

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