THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Supreme Court
The State, Respondent,
Natalio A. Perez, Appellant.
Appeal From Greenwood County
C. Victor Pyle, Jr., Circuit Court Judge
Opinion No. 24921
Heard February 17, 1999 - Filed March 22, 1999
Chief Attorney Daniel T. Stacey, of Office of
Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for appellant.
Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief Deputy
Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant
Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, and
Assistant Attorney General Derrick K. McFarland,
all of Columbia; and Solicitor W. Townes Jones IV, of
Greenwood, for respondent.
MOORE, A.J.: Appellant was convicted of murder and
sentenced to life. We affirm.
STATE v. PEREZ
Four days after their marriage, appellant murdered his wife,
Brenda Connelly. Brenda's 11-year-old son testified he saw appellant stab
his mother. Brenda was stabbed five times and the wounds were so severe
that she was almost decapitated. Appellant contended at trial that Brenda
had threatened to kill herself and he was merely attempting to get a knife
away from her when she fell on it.1
Did the trial court err in denying appellant an interpreter to
translate his criminal trial thereby violating appellant's Sixth
Amendment rights to confront witnesses and be present at his trial?
On appeal, appellant contends the trial judge erred by denying
appellant an interpreter. We disagree.
Appellant made a pre-trial motion requesting that the interpreter at
his trial be allowed to translate everything said in the courtroom. The trial
court stated he would allow the interpreter to translate the questions for
appellant and, if appellant testified, both the questions and answers.
Appellant then asked for pauses in the trial at certain crucial points to allow
the interpreter time to explain the proceeding to appellant. The trial judge
stated, "Well, I assume the interpreter is - has been in the business long
enough that she can sit there and interpret for him everything that's going
on. If it gets to be a problem, if you will let me know, then we'll cross that
bridge when we come to it." Nothing further was said.
Appellant never objected to the trial court's ruling as to the pauses in
the trial and he never informed the trial judge of any problems. Accordingly,
these arguments are procedurally barred. State v. Williams, 303 S.C. 410,
1 Although this was the majority of appellant's testimony, there was
also testimony and it was argued that Brenda was cheating on appellant and
he committed the murder in an act of jealousy. Ultimately, only murder and
voluntary manslaughter were submitted to the jury - not accident or self
STATE v. PEREZ
401 S.E.2d 168 (1991)(issue not raised to and ruled on by the trial court is
not preserved for appeal). See also State v. Mitchell, 330 S.C. 189) 498
S.E.2d 642 (1998)(whether trial judge erred in not granting recess is
procedurally barred because, while counsel indicated he might need recess,
counsel never actually requested one).
Appellant also contends the trial judge erred in failing to administer
an oath to the interpreter.2 Appellant never objected to the failure of the
trial judge to administer the oath to the interpreter.3 See, e.g. State v. Rosa,
47 Ohio App.3d 172, 547 N.E.2d 1232 (1988)(defendant waived trial court's
failure to administer oath to interpreter by failing to object); People v. Avila,
797 P.2d 804 (Colo. 1990)(defendant waived error of trial court's failure to
administer oath to interpreter when he failed to object); State v. Puente
Gomez, 121 Idaho 702, 827 p.2d 715 (1992)(failure to object precludes
reversal for failure of trial court to administer oath to interpreter).
Accordingly, these arguments are procedurally barred and appellant's
conviction and sentence are
FINNEY, C.J., TOAL, WALLER and BURNETT, JJ., concur.
2 The interpreter was sworn prior to petitioner's testimony, but
petitioner alleges the interpreter should have been sworn at the beginning of
the trial. An interpreter is considered a witness in the sense that the
accuracy of her translation is a question of fact for the jury which may be
disputed by counsel. State v. Puente-Gomez, 121 Idaho 702, 827 P.2d 715
(1992). While the administration of the oath to a witness is fundamental to
give the witness's testimony binding force, in the absence of a timely
objection, unsworn testimony does not constitute a nullity. Further, "[n]o
constitutional provision is violated when unsworn testimony is received." 81
Am. Jur.2d Witnesses § 712 (1976).
3 The General Assembly recently enacted two statutes which address
interpreters and their qualifications in trials when a party or witness does
not speak English well enough to testify. S.C. Code Ann. §§ 17-1-50 and 15
27-155 (Supp. 1998). These statutes became effective after petitioner's trial
and thus are inapplicable in this case.