An Aiken County jury took just 10 minutes to convict a Graniteville man of first-degree burglary on Tuesday in a trial that saw his son testify against him.
W. Ralph Pearson, 57, of Graniteville, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by Judge Doyet “Jack” Early for his part in a burglary in which he and his son, James Pearson, committed together.
James Pearson has already pleaded guilty to his part in the burglary. This was Ralph Pearson’s third burglary conviction, so he was facing an enhanced charge that could have seen him jailed for life. He was on probation for his last burglary conviction when the offense occurred.
Ralph Pearson had defended himself by claiming he was simply on hand when his son had come upon the victim’s Graniteville home and burglarized it.
His son testified that Ralph Pearson was, in fact, a major part of the theft, which saw the pair take dozens of items from the victim’s home and load them into a car driven from the scene by Ralph Pearson.
Barry L. Thompson, Ralph Pearson’s defense attorney, tried to frame James Pearson as someone the jury could not trust and therefor his client should be found not guilty.
“It’s not nice to say this in polite society, but, James is a liar. James is a liar,” Thompson said. “He lied to (Graniteville Police) Officer Spiers, he lied to his father, he lied to us today. He’s actually convicted of lying to the police, not once, but twice. He’s a liar, always has been.”
Miller did not feel believing Pearson Jr. was necessary to convict the defendant, as Pearson Sr. had, almost, admitted he was part of the burglary when he testified.
“Ralph Pearson admits to being there, admits to being in the car, admits to driving away,” Miller said. “Ladies and gentlemen, I submit to you that his testimony shows him guilty.”
Under South Carolina law, anyone who plays a role in a crime is equally guilty. Miller repeatedly said in closing that it does not matter if Ralph Pearson was in the home, a lookout or the getaway driver, if he had any part, he is guilty of burglary.
“It is disgusting, and pathetic that this is the father-son relationship that exists in this family. It should be heartbreaking to watch a son testify against his father in this serious of a matter. But this is where he’s from,” Miller said, pointing at the defendant. “Ralph Pearson intended for his son to go down for this. He hung him out there.”
When the jury’s verdict was announced, the defendant just slumped in his chair and covered his face with his hand. At sentencing, Ralph Pearson asked for mercy and told Early of health problems, but continued to minimize his participation.
“I don’t know what happened, I didn’t go in the house,” he said.
Early announced the sentence whereupon Pearson said “Oh my God! My Momma’s about to die.”
First-degree burglary is considered a most serious and violent crime, and as such Pearson must serve a minimum of 85 percent of his sentence.