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SC Murder Conviction Reversed by Court of Appeals

In State v. Prather, the SC Court of Appeals reversed a murder and armed robbery conviction based on improper "rebuttal testimony" by a criminal profiler.

The Court should have addressed why a criminal profiler's testimony is irrelevant and prejudicial, but they did not. By holding only that the testimony was not proper as rebuttal testimony, the opinion implies that criminal profiler testimony is acceptable if it is presented during the state's case-in-chief.

It is not, and, in a case decided earlier this year, the Court of Appeals found that profiler testimony is inadmissible because it is irrelevant and prejudicial.

What is Rebuttal Testimony?

At trial, the prosecution presents their case. When they are finished, the defense will usually make a motion for directed verdict - asking the court to dismiss the case because there is not sufficient evidence to go to a jury.

If the court denies the directed verdict motion, the defense then presents their case. After the defense's witnesses have finished testifying, the prosecution can present additional testimony only if it is in rebuttal to something that the defense raised.

The new rebuttal testimony must be "arguably contradictory and in reply to" evidence that was offered by the defense, and the prosecution is not permitted to introduce new evidence.

In Prather, the profiler's testimony in rebuttal amounted to conjecture about what might have happened based on what was found at the crime scene. It did not rebut any specific testimony that was offered by the defense, the Court found that this was not harmless error, and therefore the convictions for murder and armed robbery were reversed.

Is Testimony by a Criminal Profiler Admissible?

Criminal profilers may be an incredibly useful tool for investigating crimes or developing profiles of possible suspects as law enforcement attempts to solve a crime. But, when they are called as a witness at trial, their testimony is not relevant, it is prejudicial, and it should not be admissible.

Usually, the profiler will testify as to what was found at the crime scene. They will then tell the story of what they think might have happened based on their observations. It is pure conjecture. It is pseudo-science at best. And it is usually a prosecutor's last-ditch attempt to save a trial that they are losing.

In State v. Huckabee, the same Court of Appeals held earlier this year that profiler testimony is not relevant and is more prejudicial than probative. If the state appeals the Court of Appeals' decision in Prather, perhaps the SC Supreme Court will take the opportunity to also address why the profiler's testimony was not admissible because it was a profiler offering only conjecture, not just because it was improper rebuttal?

Murder Defense Lawyer in Myrtle Beach SC

If you or a family member are facing murder charges in SC, your lives are probably turned upside down and you may not be sure where to turn for help. Your Myrtle Beach criminal defense lawyer at Axelrod and Associates knows what you are up against. We will investigate your case, get the charges dismissed, find an acceptable resolution, or take your case to trial.

Call now at (843) 916-9300 to schedule a free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer on the Axelrod team, or fill out our contact form today.

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