In The Court of Appeals

The State,        Respondent,


Fredward T. Clark,        Appellant.

Appeal From Horry County
Sidney T. Floyd, Circuit Court Judge

Unpublished Opinion No.  2003-UP- 077
Submitted January 13, 2003 – Filed January 28, 2003


Assistant Appellate Defender Robert M. Dudek, of Columbia; for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant, Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Attorney General Derrick K. McFarland, all of Columbia; John Gregory Hembree, of Conway; for Respondent.

PER CURIAM: Fredward T. Clark was convicted of murder, criminal conspiracy, and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. He was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of forty years for murder, and to two concurrent five-year terms for conspiracy and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. Clark appeals the convictions, arguing the trial court erred in refusing to suppress a statement he made to law enforcement officials.  We affirm.


On the morning of December 18, 1999, Michael Smalls met with Clark outside of Clark’s apartment.  During the visit, Clark’s mother came by and told Clark she had been in an argument with James Wilson, who had slapped her in the face and held a gun to her head. After his mother left, Clark went with Smalls to Smalls’s home where the two played video games and talked about Wilson hitting Clark’s mother.  Eventually, Clark asked Smalls for his pistol, and Smalls gave him a handgun.

After Clark loaded the gun with bullets, he and Smalls went looking for Wilson. They found Wilson in the backyard of a nearby residence.  Clark told Smalls he wanted to speak with Wilson and Smalls began walking back toward his own residence.  A short time later, Smalls heard gunshots in the distance. Ten minutes later, Clark reappeared at Smalls’s home and the two played more video games. Clark told Smalls he had walked up to Wilson, said “God bless,” and shot him.

On the same day as the events recounted above, Beverly and Anthony Parson invited several friends and family members to their home for a cookout.  Wilson was one of the guests.  He was upset when he arrived at the Parsons’ home, but later calmed down.

Ms. Parson was inside her home when she heard what she thought was fireworks.  When she went to the door, she saw Wilson lying facedown on the ground and a man wearing a mask standing over his body.  Although she pleaded with the shooter not to kill Wilson, the shooter shot the victim again then fled the scene. Wilson died from his wounds, which included three shots to the head and one in the back.

Lieutenant Charles Sessions, the officer who investigated the shooting, interviewed Clark on three separate occasions.  On the day of the shooting, Clark voluntarily went to the Conway Police Department with Officer Sessions and was given his Miranda [1] warnings. Clark did not admit any culpability for the shooting during the interview.

Sessions and Captain Larry Alan Schilling next interviewed Clark on April 25, 2000, the date of Clark’s arrest.  Clark was again given his Miranda warnings. During the interview, Schilling advised Clark that “the penalty is up to a judge and jury to decide; there are two things here.  There’s life imprisonment or there’s death, and that’s what you’re facing, one of these two things.” Schilling also told Clark that he “might be looking at the death penalty unless we’ve got your side of the story . . . because that’s what’s going to help you in the long run, to explain what happened, why it happened . . . the truth will set you free.” Shilling also mentioned to Clark that a voluntary or involuntary manslaughter charge might be available if Clark told his side of the story, but noted that a solicitor would determine the charges.  In addition, Sessions told Clark that a five or ten year sentence was possible if he “would just tell his side of the story.” Clark again denied any involvement in the shooting.

At Clark’s request, another interview was conducted on May 5, 2000. Clark was again given his Miranda warnings, and orally waived them.  During the interview, Clark admitted he shot Wilson because he believed Wilson slapped his mother and pointed a gun at her head. He indicated that no promises were made to him during the interview.

Prior to trial, Clark’s counsel moved to suppress his May 5, 2000 statement to police, arguing the statement was the product of coercion and promises made during his April 25, 2000 interview with police. After an in camera hearing held pursuant to Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368, 84 S. Ct. 1774, 12 L.Ed. 2d 908 (1964), the trial judge ruled the May 5th statement was admissible.  Although the trial judge indicated he did not intend to allow the April 25th statement to be introduced into evidence, Clark’s attorney specifically requested that the statement be admitted in light of the judge’s ruling as to the admissibility of the May 5th statement.


Clark asserts that the trial judge erred in allowing his May 5, 2000 post-arrest statement into evidence because there exists a clear nexus between the April 25th promises of lesser sentences and coercive threats of the death penalty and the May 5th statement, thereby rendering both statements involuntary.  We disagree.

In order to determine the admissibility of a statement, the trial court must ascertain whether, under the totality of the circumstances, it was knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily given.  State v. Peake, 291 S.C. 138, 139, 352 S.E.2d 487, 488 (1987).   In order to introduce a statement made after a defendant has been advised of his Miranda rights, the State must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant voluntarily waived those rights.  State v. Reed, 332 S.C. 35, 42, 503 S.E.2d 747, 750 (1998).  “Once a voluntary waiver of the Miranda rights is made, that waiver continues until the individual being questioned indicates that he wants to revoke the waiver and remain silent or circumstances exist which establish that his ‘will has been overborne and his capacity for self-determination critically impaired.’”  State v. Rochester, 301 S.C. 196, 200, 391 S.E.2d 244, 246 (1990) (quoting State v. Moultrie, 273 S.C. 60, 62, 254 S.E.2d 294, 294-95 (1979)). 

To be deemed voluntary, a confession may not be “extracted by any sort of threats or violence, [or] obtained by any direct or implied promises, however slight, [or] by the exertion of improper influence.”  State v. Rochester, 301 S.C. 196, 200, 391 S.E.2d 244, 246 (S.C. 1990) (citing Hutto v. Ross, 429 U.S. 28, 30, 97 S. Ct. 202, 203, 50 L. Ed. 2d 194, 197 (1976)).   “A statement induced by a promise of leniency is involuntary only if so connected with the inducement as to be a consequence of the promise.”   Peake, 291 S.C. at 139, 352 S.E.2d at 488.  On appeal, this court will not disturb the trial judge’s resolution of the issue absent an error of law. State v. Franklin, 299 S.C. 133, 138, 382 S.E.2d 911, 914 (1989).

Clark concedes no promises, threats, or other improper methods were used during his May 5th interrogation.  Nonetheless, he would have this court hold that his May 5th statement was so inextricably linked to his April 25th interrogation that any improper promises or coercion the police made or used during the April interrogation induced his May confession.  We agree with the trial judge that no such nexus exists between the two interviews.  Both prior to and during the April 25th interrogation, Clark denied any involvement in Wilson’s shooting. Thus, there is no evidence that his will was overborne or his capacity for self-determination impaired during the course of the April 25th interview.  Moreover, there is no evidence he was induced by statements the officers made during the April 25th interview to immediately admit his involvement in the shooting.  Indeed, he considered his position for more than one week before he initiated contact with the officers and requested another meeting.  There is no evidence in the record indicating that during the interim he was in any way further influenced by law enforcement officials to confess to the shooting. 

Because there is no evidence that any improprieties occurred during the May 5th confession, and because we agree with the trial court that the April 25th interrogation was not inextricably linked to Clark’s May 5th confession, we hold the May 5th statement was voluntarily made and, therefore, properly admitted.

In any event, we hold the statements the officers made to Clark during the April 25th interrogation did not amount to impermissible promises or coercive threats.  It is undisputed the officers discussed lesser charges and lessened sentence exposure with Clark.  However, unlike the circumstances in Peake, where the defendant’s inculpatory statement was involuntary because he made it after interrogating officers unequivocally told him the State would not seek the death penalty if he gave a statement, there is no evidence indicating the solicitor assured Clark his confession would enable him to avoid the death penalty.  See Peake, 291 S.C. at 139, 352 S.E.2d at 488. To the contrary, Clark’s interrogators expressly informed him that the solicitor would determine the charges to be brought against him, and a judge would determine his sentence.  Further, we are aware of no authority, and Clark cites none, in support of the proposition that the mere mention of the death penalty during an interrogation stemming from a murder investigation will automatically render a statement involuntary.  Notably,  the mention of the death penalty in this case did no more than illustrate the seriousness of the crime Clark was charged with, inasmuch as the facts of the case actually did give rise to the possibility that the solicitor would seek the death penalty upon Clark’s conviction.  See S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-20(C)(a)(3)(1976) (including, among enumeration of aggravating circumstances, that “[t]he offender by his act of murder knowingly created a great risk of death to more than one person in a public place by means of a weapon or device which normally would be hazardous to the lives of more than one person.”).

Further, to the extent Clark argues on appeal that he was essentially forced into testifying in his own defense at trial by the trial court’s ruling as to the admissibility of his statement, we reject the contention.  The trial court properly ruled the statement was voluntary and admissible.  As such, Clark’s decision to testify on his own behalf was tactical in nature and did not stem from any error on the part of the trial court in admitting the statement.  

For the foregoing reasons, the conviction is



[1]           Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966).