South Carolina v. PerryAnnotate this Case
Petitioner Wallace Perry was convicted on two counts of criminal sexual conduct (CSC) with a minor in the first degree and two counts of CSC with a minor in the second degree for sexually assaulting two of his biological daughters. Prior to Perry's trial, the State made a motion to admit the testimony of Perry's stepdaughter from an earlier marriage that Perry sexually assaulted her twenty-two to twenty-seven years earlier. The State argued the trial court should not exclude the stepdaughter's testimony under Rule 404(b) of the South Carolina Rules of Evidence because it fit the "common scheme or plan" exception. Perry objected to this testimony. The trial court initially reserved ruling on the issue, but later indicated it was inclined to allow the stepdaughter to testify. The jury convicted Perry on all counts, and the trial court sentenced him to thirty years in prison. The court of appeals affirmed. The South Carolina Supreme Court determined it was not enough to meet the "logical connection" standard for admission of other crimes under the common scheme or plan exception to Rule 404(b) that the defendant previously committed the same crime. "When evidence of other crimes is admitted based solely on the similarity of a previous crime, the evidence serves only the purpose prohibited by Rule 404(b), and allows the jury to convict the defendant on the improper inference of propensity that because he did it before, he must have done it again. ...The common scheme or plan exception demands more." The Supreme Court held State must show a logical connection between the other crime and the crime charged such that the evidence of other crimes "reasonably tends to prove a material fact in issue." The State must also convince the trial court that the probative force of the evidence when used for this legitimate purpose is not substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice from the inherent tendency of the evidence to show the defendant's propensity to commit similar crimes. In this case, the State did not meet its burden. Conviction was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial.