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South Carolina
Judicial Department
2007-UP-429 - State v. Thurston


In The Court of Appeals

The State, Respondent,


Michael Dean Thurston, Sr., Appellant.

Appeal From Greenville County
 John C. Few, Circuit Court Judge

Unpublished Opinion No. 2007-UP-429
Submitted September 1, 2007 – Filed October 9, 2007 


Deputy Chief Attorney for Capital Appeals Robert M. Dudek, of Columbia, for Appellant

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster

Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh

Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott

Senior Assistant Attorney General Norman Mark Rapoport, all of Columbia, Robert M. Ariail, of Greenville, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Appellant appeals the trial court’s rulings that specific testimony given by two separate witnesses was relevant. We affirm.[1]


Appellant and Pamela Thurston were married, but the couple separated on April 30, 2004, when Appellant moved out.  On May 2, 2004, Appellant returned to the marital home, where Mrs. Thurston continued to reside, to retrieve some items he owned.  During Appellant’s visit to the home, Mrs. Thurston called the police.  Appellant left the home by the time the responding officer arrived. 

The officer spoke with Mrs. Thurston and found her to be so nervous and upset that she was shaking.  Mrs. Thurston told the officer that while leaving, her husband told her he was going to kill her and then ran over the gate she was standing behind.  The officer inspected the metal gate and found it to be twisted.   The officer also spoke with Mrs. Thurston’s neighbor who claimed to have witnessed the events between Appellant and Mrs. Thurston.  The neighbor’s description of the events corroborated the description given by Mrs. Thurston.

Based on these events, Appellant was indicted for assault with intent to kill.  Appellant was convicted by a jury of the lesser offense of assault of a high and aggravated nature.  Appellant was sentenced to five years imprisonment.  


“In criminal cases, the appellate court sits to review errors of law only.”  State v. Wilson, 345 S.C. 1, 5, 545 S.E.2d 827, 829 (2001).  “The admission or exclusion of evidence is a matter within the sound discretion of the trial court and absent clear abuse, will not be disturbed on appeal.”  Gamble v. Int'l Paper Realty Corp. of S.C., 323 S.C. 367, 373, 474 S.E.2d 438, 441 (1996).  “An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court’s ruling is based on an error of law.”  State v. Horton, 359 S.C. 555, 566, 598 S.E.2d 279, 285 (Ct. App. 2004).  To warrant reversal, an appellant must show both error and resulting prejudice.  Recco Tape & Label Co., Inc. v. Barfield, 312 S.C. 214, 216, 439 S.E.2d 838, 840 (1994).  The determination of the prejudicial effect of the evidence must be based on the entire record and the result will generally turn on the facts of each case.  State v. Gillian, 373 S.C. 601, 609, 646 S.E.2d 872, 876 (2007).


“Relevant evidence means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.” Rule 401, SCRE. “[E]vidence is relevant if it has a direct bearing upon and tends to establish or make more or less probable the matter in controversy.” State v. Staten, 364 S.C. 7, 36-37, 610 S.E.2d 823, 838 (Ct. App. 2005).

Appellant appeals the trial court’s rulings that specific testimony given by two separate witnesses was relevant.  

I.  Mrs. Thurston’s Testimony

During the solicitor’s direct examination of Mrs. Thurston, she stated she first saw Appellant on the morning of the assault when he woke her up.  The solicitor then asked Mrs. Thurston how the Appellant woke her up.  Mrs. Thurston responded: “I had a bunch of things piled in front of the door so I would be awoked [sic] because I was staying up all night because I was scared he would come in the middle of the night.”  At this point, Appellant’s trial attorney objected. 

Appellant contends this testimony was offered to imply Mrs. Thurston had reason to fear him.  In support of this contention, Appellant points out additional testimony given by Mrs. Thurston, which followed the response quoted above, in which she stated the Appellant came in ‘raging” and “hollering different things.”  Appellant also points out that the solicitor referred to him as a “bully” during his closing arguments.  However, Appellant’s trial attorney failed to object to the additional testimony or the comments by the solicitor.  To properly preserve an issue for review there must be a contemporaneous objection that is ruled upon by the trial court.  State v. Johnson, 363 S.C. 53, 58, 609 S.E.2d 520, 523 (2005). Accordingly, this additional testimony and the solicitor’s comments are not preserved for review.

The testimony that Appellant objected to explained how Mrs. Thurston first encountered the Appellant on the day of the assault.  Appellant had not been staying at the home since he and Mrs. Thurston separated.  Mrs. Thurston was explaining how Appellant, who did not live with her, was able to wake her up by entering her home.  She did not say she was scared of Appellant but that she “was scared he would come in the middle of the night.”  The trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding the evidence to be relevant.  The testimony, by explaining how Appellant’s entry into Mrs. Thurston’s home had awakened her, makes it more probable that he was at her home on the day of the assault.                      

II.  Appellant’s Cross Examination

During his cross examination of Appellant, the solicitor asked Appellant: “Two days before that on April 30th, you had thrown your wife around, hadn’t you?”  Appellant responded: “No sir. We had got into an argument and I left.”  After discussing Appellant’s weight and stature and the weight of Mrs. Thurston, the solicitor states that he would like to talk about “the argument on the 30th.”  At this point, Appellant’s trial attorney objected based on relevancy.  The trial court overruled the relevancy objection. 

There is no objection in the record to the specific questions or responses the Appellant now points out and takes exception with.  The only objection to the testimony came almost a full page in the record after Appellant first answered the solicitor’s question about the alleged argument on April 30th and almost a full page before the solicitor asked the other questions now specifically pointed out by Appellant.  It is well settled that an issue cannot be raised for the first time on appeal, but must have been raised to and ruled upon by the trial court to be preserved.  Pye v. Estate of Fox, 369 S.C. 555, 565, 633 S.E.2d 505, 510 (2006).  Furthermore, given that Appellant had already answered the solicitor’s first questions well before Appellant’s trial attorney objected, there was no prejudicial effect from similar questions asked and answered following the objection.  Accordingly, we find no error on the part of the trial court on this issue.


For the reasons stated above, the order of the trial court is



[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.