Supreme Court Seal
Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
Judicial Department
2009-UP-399 - State v. Stegall


In The Court of Appeals

The State, Respondent,


Richard Stegall, Appellant.

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

Unpublished Opinion No. 2009-UP-399
Heard July 22, 2009 – Filed August 5, 2009   


Scott David Robinson, of Greenville, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Robert Mills Ariail, of Greenville, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM: Richard Horace Stegall was indicted and tried for murder.  During its second day of deliberations, the jury notified the trial judge it was deadlocked.  The jury returned to the courtroom, and the trial judge issued an Allen charge.[1]  Neither the State nor Stegall objected to the charge.  Later that afternoon, the jury sent the trial judge a note that said, "We still have jurors who are firmly decided to different verdicts."  Both the trial judge and counsel for the parties understood this note to indicate continuing deadlock.  After declaring a mistrial, the trial judge adjourned court and walked to the jury room.  The jury informed him they were not deadlocked and would like to take another vote.  The trial judge immediately left the jury room, returning to the courtroom eight minutes after he had left it. 

Between the trial judge's return to the courtroom and his statement on the record of what transpired in the jury room, the jury notified the bailiff it had reached a verdict.  The trial judge conferred extensively with counsel concerning how to proceed.  While the State favored accepting the jury's verdict, Stegall maintained a mistrial was appropriate because the trial judge had impermissibly entered the jury room.  Given an opportunity to indicate anonymously whether the trial judge's appearance in the jury room had influenced their decision, the jurors responded it had not.  The trial judge then published the verdict of voluntary manslaughter and had the court clerk poll the jury.  At Stegall's request, the trial judge delayed sentencing. 

At the sentencing hearing, the trial judge conferred with counsel to determine whether either the State or Stegall had reconsidered its position on the issue of mistrial.  The State still desired acceptance of the verdict.  Stegall reconsidered and stated, "Your Honor, after consulting with my client, we would accept the verdict of voluntary manslaughter."  Stegall was then sentenced to twenty-eight years' imprisonment.  This appeal followed. 

Stegall argues the trial judge committed reversible error by entering the jury room during deliberations.  We disagree. 

Trial courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to declare a mistrial.  State v. Ferguson, 376 S.C. 615, 618, 658 S.E.2d 101, 103   (2008).  An appellate court will not reverse the grant or denial of a mistrial "absent an abuse of discretion amounting to an error of law."  Id.  The grant of a mistrial is "a serious and extreme measure which should only be taken when the prejudice can be removed no other way."  Id. at 618-19, 658 S.E.2d at 103. 

Entering the jury's verdict instead of declaring a mistrial was within the trial judge's broad discretion in this case.  A party who has invited or induced a particular ruling by the trial court cannot complain of it on appeal, even if the ruling was error.  See Floyd v. Thornton, 220 S.C. 414, 425-26, 68 S.E.2d 334, 339 (1951).  Although Stegall initially opposed the jury's verdict because the trial judge entered the jury room during deliberations, he ultimately accepted the verdict without objection.  Stegall cannot complain on appeal of a result to which he acceded.  Therefore, the decision of the trial judge is


HEARN, C.J., THOMAS and KONDUROS, JJ., concur.

[1] When a jury indicates deadlock, a judge may issue an Allen charge, encouraging them "to approach the evidence with an open mind and consider the opinions of their fellow jurors."  State v. Robinson, 360 S.C. 187, 193, 600 S.E.2d 100, 103 (Ct. App. 2004); see Allen v. U.S., 164 U.S. 492, 501-02 (1896).