Sidney Moorer’s appeal on kidnapping conviction in judges’ hands
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – The appeal of a Horry County man convicted in a high-profile kidnapping case is now in the hands of the judges.
On Wednesday, an appellate defender argued the trial court erred in three ways that led to Sidney Moorer being convicted on the kidnapping charge in Heather Elvis’ disappearance.
Elvis was last seen or heard from on Dec. 18, 2013, and her body has never been found.
Moorer was first convicted of obstruction of justice in the case in September 2017 and then convicted of kidnapping in September 2019. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
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In the first argument, the defense stated that the trial court erred in transferring the venue back to Horry County instead of having it in Georgetown County.
Appellate defender Taylor Gilliam said that the jury in Horry County was contaminated by all the social media surrounding the case.
One judge questioned why Moorer consented to being tried in Horry County on the obstruction of justice charge but not the kidnapping charge.
Gilliam argued that the obstruction of justice charge wasn’t as widely known.
“In order to answer your question, I would surmise that the publicity of the obstruction of justice charge was not as widespread as it was for the kidnapping charge and I believe that’s reflected in the documents the defense counsel included in the motion to move the venue back to Georgetown County,” Gilliam said.
The judge also brought up that 173 members of the jury pool indicated that they had no knowledge of the case. He also added that a lot of people have moved to Horry County and that many of them may not know about the case.
Gilliam pointed out that there have been national news stories done on the Elvis’ disappearance that could taint a jury pool.
He is asking for the court to reverse the kidnapping conviction and remand for trial in Georgetown County or any county outside of Horry County.
In the second issue, the appellate defender said the court erred in denying the defense’s motion for a directed verdict on both the kidnapping and conspiracy to kidnap charge. A directed verdict is when a judge makes the ruling rather than the case being sent to a jury to decide if a person is guilty or not guilty.
Gilliam argued that evidence provided by the state was insufficient to send to a jury. He said there was no evidence that Elvis was kidnapped.
“In this case, there is no evidence of a struggle in her car, at the landing, in Mr. Moorer’s truck or any overact regarding kidnapping. There is no evidence that Mr. Moorer was at the boat landing,” Gilliam said.
He added that there is no evidence of a meeting or a plan to kidnap Elvis.
On this issue, Gilliam is requesting the court issue a verdict of acquittal and not allow Moorer to be retried on either defense.
In the third and final issue, the appellate defense stated that the court erred in qualifying Grant Fredericks as an expert in forensic video and allowed him to testify on the headlight pattern and characteristics and state that it was Moorer’s truck that was seen on video near the time and place that Elvis disappeared.
This issue appeared to be the most contentious of the three points during the appeal hearing.
Gilliam argued that Fredericks produced a report that was not reliable and that his conclusion on how the vehicle matched Moorer’s doesn’t satisfy factors regarding reliability.
The judges questioned prosecutors on how Fredericks could have tied the truck in the video to it being Moorer’s based on the headlights since the headlights have since been changed out.
“Mr. Fredericks says in a peer review, I can look at not even this particular truck cause they’ve already changed the headlights, I can look at the records from what y’all have here from SLED (State Law Enforcement Division) and from those records, because of peer review procedures, I can determine this was his vehicle. That’s an amazing leap, I mean it really is,” said one of the appellate judges.
Senior Assistant Attorney General David Spencer equated it to experts looking at ballistics and matching bullets with a certain gun.
Gilliam asked that on issue three the court reverse the conviction and remand it back to trial.
There is no specific deadline on when the Court of Appeals can issue an opinion on the case.
Meanwhile, the South Carolina Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments on May 17 on Moorer’s obstruction of justice conviction.
Moorer and his legal team are arguing the trial judge erred in denying the directed verdict motion.
In July 1, 2020, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s decision to deny the motion, stating that there was enough evidence to prove Moorer’s guilt and give the case to the jury.
Moorer’s wife, Tammy, was also convicted of kidnapping Elvis and sentenced to 30 years in prison.
She is currently appealing her conviction.
Her defense team argued that the court erred in failing to grant her motion for a directed verdict in the case, that the court abused its discretion in admitting text messages that were sexually explicit and referenced drug use, erred in qualifying Fredericks as an expert witness and abused its discretion from excluding testimony from her alibi witnesses and several family members.
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