Appellant William Mark Brockmeyer appeals his convictions for murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime, raising constitutional challenges to both the trial court's refusal to enforce a subpoena concerning the identity of an internet commenter and the admission of certain chain-of-custody testimony and other photographic evidence at trial. We affirm.
Appellant William Mark Brockmeyer and Nicholas Rae (the victim) knew each other for seven or eight years before the shooting; the two met while working together at a tree service company, and thereafter, they both served time in the same prison facility.
After finishing the pool games, the victim, clearly intoxicated,
Brockmeyer walked outside and knelt in front of the victim, who was slumped over in a chair, asleep with his hands by his side. Brakefield saw Brockmeyer whisper in the victim's ear,
Commotion ensued, both inside and outside the bar. Several patrons surrounded the victim and attempted to administer first aid. Brockmeyer reappeared several minutes later, having removed his white Sean John brand t-shirt and wearing only a tank-top undershirt. Police officers arrived shortly and began collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses. That night, Brockmeyer offered several conflicting explanations about what had happened, including that he was inside when the victim was shot, that the victim committed suicide, and that "black guys" shot the victim. Brockmeyer was taken to the police station for questioning where he eventually admitted shooting the victim but claimed the gun went off accidentally. Brockmeyer was arrested and charged with murder and one count of possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime.
At trial, Brockmeyer contended the shooting was an accident — he saw the victim slumped over with the .380 pistol in his lap, and when Brockmeyer claimed he reached for the gun, a shot went off. Brockmeyer admitted possessing the gun earlier in the evening and disposing of it in the woods behind the bar after the shooting. However, Brockmeyer claimed he only temporarily held onto the .380 pistol while the victim played pool (at the victim's request) and that he was unarmed at the time he followed the victim outside. Brockmeyer contended he did not realize the victim was hurt until after he disposed of the gun, and upon hearing the victim was injured, he became very emotional because the two were close friends. One witness, Mariko Clack, testified Brockmeyer was weeping and was "really shaky and frantic" after he was told the victim had been shot.
A jury convicted Brockmeyer of murder and the weapon charge, and Brockmeyer was sentenced to an aggregate term of forty years in prison. Brockmeyer appealed, and this matter was transferred to this Court from the court of appeals pursuant to Rule 204(b), SCACR.
Brockmeyer argues the trial court committed reversible error in failing to grant his motion to enforce a subpoena directed at a news media outlet. We disagree.
"[C]riminal defendants have the right to the government's assistance in compelling the attendance of favorable witnesses at trial and the right to put before a jury evidence that might influence the determination of guilt." Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39, 56, 107 S.Ct. 989, 94 L.Ed.2d 40 (1987). However, "the Sixth Amendment does not by its terms grant to a criminal defendant the right to secure the attendance and testimony of any and all witnesses.'" United States v. Valenzuela-Bernal 458 U.S. 858, 867, 102 S.Ct. 3440, 73 L.Ed.2d 1193 (1982). Rather, to demonstrate a Compulsory Process Clause violation, an appellant must make some plausible showing of how the testimony of an absent witness would have been both material and favorable to his defense. Id.
Less than twenty-four hours after the shooting, a news article about the shooting was published on a website operated by WLTX, a local television station. The WLTX website allows users to establish an account which they may use to post comments and exchange messages on the WLTX website. The online registration process requires a person to submit his or her gender, year of birth, and zip code, and, for users who wish to access discussion forums and sharing pages, the user's name and email address are also required. The WLTX Privacy Notice, which all users had to accept, included a
The day after the shooting, someone using the pseudonym "AndTheTruth" posted the following comment on the WLTX website in response to the online article about the shooting:
The theory of Brockmeyer's defense was that the shooting was an accident. Brockmeyer wanted evidence supporting his claim of accident and being emotionally upset after the shooting. Brockmeyer contends the anonymous comment suggests its author had direct knowledge of the incident and supports Brockmeyer's claim of an accidental shooting. Accordingly, Brockmeyer wished to explore the possibility that the commenter might be a potential defense witness and served WLTX with a subpoena seeking the following information:
WLTX objected to the subpoena, arguing the commenter's identity was protected anonymous speech under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
Based on WLTX's objection, Brockmeyer thereafter filed a motion to enforce the subpoena, contending he was entitled to explore potential witnesses and present a defense by virtue of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. At the pre-trial motion hearing, defense counsel explained:
Brockmeyer argued his right to present an accident defense was "way more important" than any right asserted by WLTX, including the anonymous commenter's First Amendment rights. Brockmeyer contended he had no other means to procure the information sought.
The trial judge noted the competing interests at issue — specifically, Brockmeyer's constitutionally guaranteed rights and an anonymous speaker's First Amendment right not to reveal his or her identity. However, because disclosure of the anonymous commenter's identity could potentially produce testimony only if the commenter was present at the scene, and because the defense had previously been given a list of all persons who signed in as a client at the bar on the night of the shooting, the trial court concluded that, if the information exists, it was readily available through other means. As a result, the trial judge declined to enforce the subpoena at that time.
At trial, Brockmeyer did not renew his motion to enforce the subpoena or argue to the trial judge that he still required this information. On appeal, Brockmeyer asks the Court to reverse his conviction, arguing he is constitutionally guaranteed the right to compel witnesses in his favor and that he was denied that right by the trial court's refusal to enforce his subpoena directing WLTX to disclose the anonymous commenter's registration information.
This Court has not specifically addressed whether and under what circumstances the right to anonymity must give way to other constitutionally protected interests, such as a criminal defendant's rights under the Sixth Amendment's
Doe v. 2TheMart.com Inc., 140 F.Supp.2d 1088, 1095 (W.D.Wash.2001).
Although Brockmeyer presents a compelling argument for the disclosure of the commenter under the circumstances presented, we decline to reach this issue on issue preservation grounds. We have no way of properly evaluating Brockmeyer's continuing need for the information he sought to subpoena following the trial judge's instructions for the solicitor to take additional steps to assist the defense in identifying everyone at Jager's on the night of the shooting. This is so because Brockmeyer failed to renew his motion at the outset of trial. Thus, Brockmeyer has failed to provide this Court with a sufficient record on appeal to evaluate this assertion of error. See Harkins v. Greenville Cnty., 340 S.C. 606, 616, 533 S.E.2d 886, 891 (2000) (finding it impossible to evaluate the merits of certain issues because the Appellant failed to include the relevant material in the record on appeal); Crestwood Golf Club, Inc. v. Potter, 328 S.C. 201, 215, 493 S.E.2d 826, 834
However, even assuming the trial court erred in not requiring disclosure of the anonymous commenter's identity, the error would not be reversible. Brockmeyer is unable to show he was prejudiced by the trial judge's denial of his motion to enforce the subpoena. More to the point, evidence of an accidental shooting and Brockmeyer's distraught state was presented. Brockmeyer testified that the shooting was an accident and that he was "in shock" afterwards. More importantly, Mariko Clack, who was among the group of friends with Brockmeyer and the victim on the night of the shooting, testified that Brockmeyer was weeping and was "really shaky and frantic" after the shooting. Thus, any error was harmless because even assuming the anonymous commenter testified to that effect, it would have been cumulative.
Brockmeyer argues statements of certain non-testifying evidence custodians found in computerized chain-of-custody logs were introduced indirectly at trial in violation of the Confrontation
"`The admission of evidence is within the discretion of the trial court and will not be reversed absent an abuse of discretion.'" State v. Hatcher, 392 S.C. 86, 91, 708 S.E.2d 750, 753 (2011) (quoting State v. Pagan, 369 S.C. 201, 208, 631 S.E.2d 262, 265 (2006)). "`An abuse of discretion occurs when the conclusions of the trial court either lack evidentiary support or are controlled by an error of law.'" Id.
The Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees that "[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right ... to be confronted with the witnesses against him." This procedural protection applies in both federal and state prosecutions by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pointer v. Texas, 380 U.S. 400, 406, 85 S.Ct. 1065, 13 L.Ed.2d 923 (1965).
In Crawford v. Washington, the Supreme Court unanimously found the criminal defendant's Confrontation Clause rights had been violated by the admission into evidence a tape recording of a nontestifying person's "testimonial" statement to police. 541 U.S. 36, 68-69, 124 S.Ct. 1354, 158 L.Ed.2d 177 (2004). Crawford changed the law to prohibit the admission of testimonial, out-of-court statements unless two conditions are met: the witness is unavailable at trial and the defendant had a prior opportunity to cross-examine the witness. Id. at 68. Although Crawford applies whenever "testimonial evidence is at issue," the Supreme Court emphasized that "nontestimonial" evidence is exempted from Confrontation Clause scrutiny altogether. Id.
Thereafter, in Melendez-Diaz v. Massachusetts, the Supreme Court found sworn certificates from forensic analysts, which were admitted at trial to attest that the substance seized from the criminal defendant was cocaine, were testimonial in nature and thus subject to the Confrontation Clause. 557 U.S. 305, 311, 129 S.Ct. 2527, 174 L.Ed.2d 314 (2009). The Supreme Court noted "the sole purpose of the affidavits was to provide `prima facie evidence of the composition, quality, and the net weight' of the analyzed substance," and held that the analysts were "witnesses" for the purposes of the Confrontation
Two years later, the Supreme Court decided Bullcoming v. New Mexico, ___ U.S. ___, 131 S.Ct. 2705, 180 L.Ed.2d 610 (2011). Bullcoming was convicted of driving under the influence. The trial court admitted in evidence a lab report indicating his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was at "an inordinately high level." Id. at 2710. The lab analyst who prepared the report was not available to testify, and counsel objected to the introduction of the lab report because it violated Bullcoming's right to confront his accuser. The Supreme Court agreed, rejecting New Mexico's reliance on the business record exception to rules against hearsay, and reversed the conviction. Id. at 2710-13.
Concurring separately in Bullcoming, Justice Sotomayor emphasized that the BAC report at issue was testimonial in nature because its "`primary purpose' is evidentiary," and therefore the Sixth Amendment's Confrontation Clause was triggered. Id. at 2719. Further, Justice Sotomayor noted that "in the Confrontation Clause context, business and public records `are generally admissible absent confrontation because — having been created for the administration of an entity's affairs and not for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact at trial — they are not testimonial.'" Id. at 2720 (quoting Melendez-Diaz, 557 U.S. at 325, 129 S.Ct. 2527) (emphasis added).
Under the primary purpose analysis required by the Confrontation Clause, where the primary purpose of an out-of-court statement is to serve as evidence or "an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony," the statement is considered testimonial. Bullcoming, 131 S.Ct. at 2721-23 (Sotomayor, J., concurring). However, "[w]here no such primary purpose exists, the admissibility of a statement is the concern of state and federal rules of evidence, not the Confrontation Clause." Michigan v. Bryant, 131 S.Ct. at 1155; see, e.g., Melendez-Diaz, 557 U.S. at 324, 129 S.Ct. 2527 ("Business and public records are generally admissible absent confrontation not because they qualify under an exception to the hearsay rules, but because — having been created for the administration of an entity's affairs and not for the purpose of establishing or proving some fact at trial — they are not testimonial." (emphasis added)); Davis, 547 U.S. at 822, 126 S.Ct. 2266 ("Statements are nontestimonial when made in the course of police interrogation under circumstances objectively indicating that the primary purpose of the interrogation is to enable police assistance to meet an ongoing emergency.").
In determining the primary purpose of the out-of-court statement, "the relevant inquiry is not the subjective or actual purpose of the individuals involved in a particular
Recently, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals examined the Supreme Court's Confrontation Clause jurisprudence — including Crawford, Melendez-Diaz, and Bullcoming — and concluded "`the chain of custody is not relevant when a witness identifies the object as the actual object about which he testified.'" United States v. Summers, 666 F.3d 192, 201 (4th Cir.2011) (quoting United States v. Phillips, 640 F.2d 87, 94 (7th Cir.1981)). "Establishing a strict chain of custody `is not an ironclad requirement, and the fact of a missing link does not prevent the admission of real evidence, so long as there is sufficient proof that the evidence is what it purports to be and has not been altered in any material respect.'" Id. (quoting United States v. Ricco, 52 F.3d 58, 61-62 (4th Cir. 1995)). "The [trial] court's role is merely to act as a gatekeeper for the jury, and the proponent of the evidence need only make a prima facie showing of its authenticity." Id. (citing United States v. Vidacak, 553 F.3d 344, 349 (4th Cir.2009)).
On appeal, Brockmeyer challenges the admission of certain evidentiary items on the grounds that the State failed to call to the witness stand every evidence custodian to testify about the chain of custody. Specifically, Brockmeyer challenges the admission of (1) a t-shirt Brockmeyer was wearing on the night of the shooting (State's Exhibit # 25); (2) a spent shell casing recovered near the victim's body (State's Exhibit # 28);
At trial, the State called Investigator Day, who testified that during the course of his investigation he collected the following from the scene: Brockmeyer's t-shirt, the spent shell casing, the pistol magazine and the .380 caliber semiautomatic pistol. Following authentication by Investigator Day, photographs of each item were admitted without objection. Thereafter, the State moved for admission of the items into evidence. Defense counsel objected to the admission of the items, arguing the State failed to lay a "sufficient chain of custody or foundation." Notably, Brockmeyer's objection to the admission of these items was based solely on the allegedly insufficient foundation — not a Confrontation Clause violation.
The trial judge overruled the objections, finding a proper foundation was laid by Investigator Day's testimony identifying each item as the item he collected. Thereafter, outside the presence of the jury, the following colloquy took place between defense counsel and the trial judge:
Thereafter, the State offered the testimony of Investigator Troy Crump, who testified that he was present at the autopsy and collected a fired projectile recovered from the victim's body (State's Exhibit # 53). After a photograph of the projectile was admitted without objection, the State submitted the projectile itself for admission into evidence. As with the previous items, defense counsel objected to the admission of the projectile based on "insufficient foundation because of the chain of custody." Again, no Confrontation Clause objection was raised. The trial judge overruled the objection and the fired projectile was admitted.
Thereafter, to establish a foundation for later admitting forensic analyses of the items, the State further developed the chain of custody for each piece of evidence. Investigator Crump testified that the autopsy pathologist recovered the projectile, placed it in a bottle, heat-sealed the bottle inside a plastic bag, and initialed and dated the seal. Investigator Crump testified that, immediately upon the conclusion of the autopsy, he took custody of the sealed bag containing the projectile, transported it directly to the Lexington County Sheriff's Department (LCSD) facility, and stored it in a secure laboratory overnight.
Margaret Harmon, an LCSD evidence custodian, verified that she received the fired projectile from Investigator Crump along with various items from Investigator Day, including the t-shirt, the shell casing, the pistol and the magazine. Harmon testified that each item was sealed with tamperproof tape and that, at the time she received them, no one had opened, altered, or manipulated any of the containers.
The solicitor then asked Harmon to recite the chain of custody for each item. Referring to the LCSD chain-of-custody log, defense counsel objected to Harmon's testimony, arguing her testimony constituted inadmissible hearsay. Specifically, counsel asserted it was improper for Harmon to read from the custody logs because they were not subject to the business records exception of Rule 803(6), SCRE. Notably, as with Brockmeyer's objection to the admission of the items themselves, this objection failed to allege a Confrontation Clause violation.
The trial judge overruled Brockmeyer's hearsay objection, finding law enforcement agencies are entitled to avail themselves of the business records exception and that these chain-of-custody records were kept in the normal course of business. The trial judge concluded Harmon's testimony was admissible.
Regarding the pistol magazine, Harmon testified the item had remained in the continuous custody of the LCSD evidence facility from the time it was initially submitted by Investigator Day until it was brought to court for trial. Harmon testified that she or Candy Kyzer, another LCSD evidence custodian,
In further developing the chains of custody, the State offered the testimony of Amy Stephens, a forensic technician in the evidence control department at SLED. Referring to the SLED chain-of-custody report, Stephens testified that she accepted the t-shirt, the pistol, the shell casing, and the fired projectile from Investigator Day, and that she immediately transferred those items to the firearms evidence intake storage. Although the SLED chain-of-custody reports were not offered into evidence, defense counsel objected to Stephens' testimony reciting the information contained the reports on the basis that it was hearsay. Additionally, for the first time, defense counsel alleged a Confrontation Clause violation under the rule set forth in Crawford. The trial judge asked defense counsel to clarify the objection:
The trial judge overruled the objection, stating Stephens "is entitled to use the records, but that takes care of it," implicitly finding the testimony did not implicate the Confrontation Clause. Thereafter, the relevant chains of custody were developed as follows.
Stephens testified the t-shirt was retrieved from storage by Lisa Waananen
Butler testified the t-shirt was in a properly sealed container when she received it and that it had not been tampered with. Butler testified she took DNA swabs from the t-shirt to test for possible blood or skin cells, then she re-sealed and initialed the box, and returned it to the evidence control department.
Stephens confirmed that Butler returned the t-shirt to the evidence control department in a properly re-sealed container on October 25, 2010, following completion of the DNA testing, and the t-shirt was returned to Candy Kyzer of LCSD on December 1, 2010.
Pistol, Shell Casing, and Fired Projectile:
Again referring to the SLED chain-of-custody report, Stephens testified the .380 caliber pistol, the shell casing, and the fired projectile were retrieved from the evidence control department
Michelle Eichenmiller, a firearms analyst for SLED, testified that she received the pistol, the shell casing, and the fired projectile, and at the time of her receipt, each item was in a sealed, taped package and had not been tampered with or altered. Eichenmiller testified that through laboratory testing, she was able to determine that the projectile recovered during the autopsy and the shell casing found near the victim's body were both fired by the pistol — State's Exhibit # 48. Following Eichenmiller's examination, Stephens testified, the items were returned to the SLED evidence control department and were subsequently returned to Candy Kyzer at the LCSD.
Defense counsel objected to the testimony of both Stephens and Eichenmiller on the basis of hearsay and, for the first time, defense counsel alleged a Confrontation Clause violation under Crawford
Brockmeyer now argues that various law enforcement personnel listed within the chain-of-custody logs did not testify at trial in violation of the Confrontation Clause, thus rendering the admission of the t-shirt, the shell casing, the magazine, the.380 pistol, and the fired projectile reversible error. We reject this argument for several reasons.
We first find Brockmeyer's claim is not preserved for appellate review. Although Brockmeyer objected to the admission of the t-shirt, the shell casing, the magazine, the.380 pistol, and the fired projectile, none of Brockmeyer's initial objections alleged a Confrontation Clause violation; rather, Brockmeyer challenged only the sufficiency of the foundation for admitting each item. The issue of whether evidence is admissible under "state-law requirements regarding proof of foundational facts" is distinct from the issue of whether a defendant's Sixth Amendment confrontation right was violated. See Williams v. Illinois, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 132 S.Ct. 2221, 2243, 183 L.Ed.2d 89 (2012) ("[I]f a statement is not made for `the primary purpose of creating an out-of-court substitute for trial testimony,' its admissibility `is the concern of state and federal rules of evidence, not the Confrontation Clause.'" (quoting Bryant, 131 S.Ct. at 1155)). Thus, on appeal, Brockmeyer may not bootstrap a Confrontation Clause objection onto his objection to the State's proof of foundational facts. Although Brockmeyer eventually raised Confrontation Clause objections, those objections were untimely as to the admission of the items themselves and do not preserve for appellate review the issue of whether that evidence was properly admitted. See State v. Aldret, 333 S.C. 307, 312, 509 S.E.2d 811, 813 (1999) (finding where a defendant failed to call an alleged error to the trial judge's attention at the first opportunity to do so, the defendant is procedurally barred from raising the issue on appeal).
"Hearsay is a statement, which may be written, other than one made by the declarant while testifying at trial, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted." In re Care & Treatment of Harvey, 355 S.C. 53, 61, 584 S.E.2d 893, 897 (2003) (citing Rule 801, SCRE). "Hearsay is not admissible unless there is an applicable exception." Id. at 61-62, 584 S.E.2d at 897 (citing Rule 802, SCRE). The business record exception reads, in pertinent part:
Rule 803, SCRE.
At trial, Harmon testified that she was responsible for storing, tracking the physical custody, and maintaining control of all of the evidence collected by investigators and crime scene personnel. She testified that the record of who possessed each piece of evidence is referred to as a chain of custody and that the chain of custody paperwork accompanies the evidence as it is transferred. Harmon testified that, when evidence is first submitted to the LCSD facility, an evidence custodian verifies the identity of each item and ensures it is accompanied by a chain of custody form. The evidence custodian then enters the tracking information into a computer system and stores the evidence until it is released for testing or sent to court. Harmon testified that the chain of custody form is "basically ... keeping track of who touches it and what happens to the evidence," and that the custody forms and data are maintained in the normal course of business.
We find the facts of this case demonstrate that the evidence logs were kept as business records for the purpose of identifying and storing evidentiary items. We find the trial judge properly determined the chain-of-custody reports fall within the hearsay exception in Rule 803(6), SCRE, and that the evidence custodians' testimony about the chains of custody was admissible. Critical to admissibility of the chain-of-custody records here is their non-testimonial nature. Regarding the Confrontation Clause analysis, these chains of custody were not created "for the sole purpose of providing evidence against the defendant." Melendez-Diaz, 557 U.S. at 323, 129 S.Ct. 2527. Indeed, the evidence logs do not purport to prove any fact necessary to the conviction, and the custodians who did not testify were in no manner involved in the testing or analysis of the recovered items; thus, the statements by non-testifying custodians contained in the chain-of-custody logs are not testimonial in nature because their "primary purpose" is not to constitute evidence in a criminal trial. Because we find these statements are not testimonial, they are exempt from Confrontation Clause scrutiny. See Bullcoming, 131 S.Ct. at 2720 (Sotomayor, J., concurring) ("[B]usiness and public records `are generally admissible absent confrontation.'").
Having determined there was no Confrontation Clause violation, the issue of the admissibility of testimony regarding the chains of custody is purely a question of state law. In this case, the challenged evidence was unique and readily identifiable. Because the challenged evidence in this case is not fungible, unlike the cocaine in Melendez-Diaz or the blood sample in Bullcoming, here strict chains of custody are not required for admission into evidence. State v. Freiburger, 366 S.C. 125, 134, 620 S.E.2d 737, 741-42 (2005) ("While the chain of custody requirement is strict where fungible evidence is involved, where the issue is the admissibility of non-fungible evidence — that is, evidence that is unique and identifiable — the establishment of a strict chain of custody
Here, the challenged evidence was admissible upon a proper showing of identification. Before the items were admitted into evidence, Investigators Day and Crump identified each item as the item they collected, and testified that the evidence was carefully marked and preserved so that it could be identified with absolute certainty. Additionally, as to the t-shirt in particular, both Brakefield and Clack testified that Brockmeyer was wearing the t-shirt at the time of the shooting. Moreover, two photographs depicting Brockmeyer wearing the t-shirt on the night of the shooting (State's Exhibits # 3 and # 4) were already admitted into evidence. Accordingly, the trial court's evidentiary rulings are readily sustainable, for there is ample evidence establishing that these items were, in fact, what they were purported to be. See Hatcher, 392 S.C. at 95, 708 S.E.2d at 755 (holding that although "every person handling the evidence need not be identified in all cases," the proponent of the evidence must nonetheless demonstrate "how the item was obtained and how it was handled to ensure that it is, in fact, what it is purported to be"); see also United States v. Summers, 666 F.3d 192, 201 (4th Cir. 2011) (In determining whether real evidence is admissible, the trial judge need "only to satisfy itself that it was `improbable that the original item had been exchanged with another or otherwise tampered with.'" (quoting United States v. Jones,
We finally note the obvious — Brockmeyer admitted possessing the .380 pistol at the time it was fired and then throwing the gun and the magazine into the woods afterwards. Brockmeyer's self-authentication of the challenged items renders meritless his chain of custody and Crawford arguments. Having authenticated most of the items through his own testimony, Brockmeyer himself negates any possible prejudice by the admission of these items. See State v. Commander, 396 S.C. 254, 263, 721 S.E.2d 413, 418 (2011) ("To warrant reversal based on the admission or exclusion of evidence, the appellant must prove both the error of the ruling and the resulting prejudice, i.e., that there is a reasonable probability the jury's verdict was influenced by the challenged evidence or the lack thereof."); State v. Mizzell, 349 S.C. 326, 333, 563 S.E.2d 315, 318 (2002) ("`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.'" (quoting State v. Graham, 314 S.C. 383, 385, 444 S.E.2d 525, 527 (1994))). Accordingly, we find the trial judge's admission of the challenged items of evidence did not constitute reversible error.
Brockmeyer argues the trial court committed reversible error in admitting two photographs during his trial — specifically, a photograph of Brockmeyer and a photograph taken from the victim's cell phone. We disagree.
"`A trial judge has considerable latitude in ruling on the admissibility of evidence and his rulings will not be disturbed absent a showing of probable prejudice.'" State v. Brazell, 325 S.C. 65, 78, 480 S.E.2d 64, 72 (1997) (quoting State v. Kelley, 319 S.C. 173, 177, 460 S.E.2d 368, 370 (1997)). "The determination of relevancy and materiality of a photograph is left to the sound discretion of the trial judge." Id. "Photographs calculated to arouse the sympathy or prejudice of the jury should be excluded if they are irrelevant or not necessary to substantiate material facts or conditions." Id.
First, Brockmeyer argues the trial court erred in admitting a photograph of him taken shortly after the shooting because
As an initial matter, it is our view this matter is not preserved for appellate review because the basis of the objection at trial was relevance, but Brockmeyer argues on appeal that the probative value was substantially outweighed by the prejudicial effect under Rule 403. Because a party may not argue one ground at trial and another on appeal, this issue is not preserved for appellate review.
Nevertheless, on the merits, we find no abuse of discretion in the admission of the photograph. The photograph depicted Brockmeyer close to the time of the shooting and was relevant to his demeanor at the time. Moreover, because other witnesses testified regarding Brockmeyer's demeanor being agitated following the shooting, Brockmeyer cannot prove he was prejudiced by the admission of this photograph. See State v. Griffin, 339 S.C. 74, 77-78, 528 S.E.2d 668, 670 (2000) ("There is no reversible error in the admission of evidence that is cumulative to other evidence properly admitted.") (citing State v. Williams, 321 S.C. 455, 469 S.E.2d 49 (1996)). In this regard, it was Brockmeyer who sought to bolster his accident defense with evidence of his distraught and weeping demeanor. Surely the State is entitled to counter that evidence.
Lastly, Brockmeyer claims the trial court erred in admitting State's Exhibit # 56, which is a photograph recovered from the victim's cell phone depicting the murder weapon and the victim's pellet gun side by side with the caption, "Wills gun on left my gun on righ[t]." Brockmeyer claims this photograph was offered for the truth of the matter asserted in the caption and, therefore, was inadmissible hearsay. We agree with Brockmeyer but do not find the error reversible.
For the foregoing reasons, Brockmeyer's convictions and sentences are affirmed.
TOAL, C.J., PLEICONES, BEATTY and HEARN, JJ., concur.