State v. Hightower, Appellate Case No. 2018-000822

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtPER CURIAM
PartiesThe State, Respondent, v. Antoine Lakida Hightower, Appellant.
Decision Date07 July 2021
Docket NumberAppellate Case No. 2018-000822,Unpublished Opinion No. 2021-UP-261

The State, Respondent,
Antoine Lakida Hightower, Appellant.

Appellate Case No. 2018-000822
Unpublished Opinion No. 2021-UP-261


Heard December 8, 2020
July 7, 2021


Appeal From York County
John C. Hayes, III, Circuit Court Judge,


Appellate Defender Joanna Katherine Delany, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Joshua A. Edwards, both of Columbia; and Solicitor Kevin S. Brackett, of York, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM: Appellant Antoine Lakida Hightower appeals his convictions for first-degree burglary, kidnapping, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature (ABHAN), and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. He argues the circuit court erred by: (1) denying his pretrial motion for a psychiatric

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evaluation; (2) declining to order a competency evaluation; (3) and admitting prior statements given by the victim and another witness who also testified at the trial. We affirm.


On August 23, 2017, Tymel McCullough, Maurice Taylor, and two female acquaintances were socializing in a motel room in York County. McCullough was loitering outside the room when Appellant asked to borrow a lighter. McCullough responded that he had a lighter but it was not on his person. McCullough then walked back to his room, and Appellant followed. McCullough went inside his room, but he and Taylor did not grant Appellant entry into the room. After knocking on the door a few times, Appellant kicked it in. Appellant entered the room brandishing what looked like a handgun1 and proceeded to ask for McCullough.2 McCullough ran out of the room, but Appellant caught him and battered him with the handgun. McCullough picked up a nearby brick and hit Appellant hard enough to momentarily escape his clutches. McCullough ran back to the room, but the door would not close, so Appellant reentered the room and resumed his assault on McCullough. Appellant hit McCullough with the brick multiple times in the neck area until McCullough became temporarily paralyzed and then unconscious. Appellant then grabbed an item off a nightstand and/or drawer and left the room. He was arrested shortly thereafter about a mile and a half from the motel.

On December 7, 2017, a York County grand jury indicted Appellant for kidnapping, first-degree burglary, ABHAN, and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. On March 27, 2018, Appellant appeared in court for a hearing to express his desire for a new attorney due to his dissatisfaction with the State's plea offer. After his counsel requested that the court let Appellant "air out whatever grievances he ha[d] and decide whether or not they[] were legitimate enough for [counsel] to be relieved," the circuit court engaged Appellant in the following colloquy:

Court: Okay. . . . [H]ow old are you?

Appellant: I'm 40 years old, sir.

Court: How far did you go in school?

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Appellant: A GED.

Court: Have you ever been treated for any mental or emotional disability?

Appellant: Yes[] sir, I am.

Court: Tell me about that.

Appellant: I [was] kind of diagnosed back in 2000 with paranoid schizophrenic.

Court: Al[right]. Are you on any kind of medication today?

Appellant: Yes[] sir, I am.

Court: What type of medication?

Appellant: Seroquel.

. . . .

Court: And have you been receiving that medication while you've been in the York County Detention Center?

Appellant: Yes, I have.

Court: And you've been treated through Catawba Mental Health?

Appellant: Not since I been in here, no.

Court: But you've been prescribed medication?

Appellant: Yes[] sir.

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Court: The fact that you're taking Seroquel for some schizophrenia, does that affect your ability to understand what you're doing here?

Appellant: No[] sir.

. . . .

After the court explained to Appellant his level of exposure and what the plea offer by the State meant in relation to his charges, Appellant asked for a new attorney because he felt the time offered was "too much." Appellant stated: "All I did was get into a fight[,] and the situation got out of hand, and the guy [is] locked up right now, so why should I have to sign for fifteen years?" The court found there was no basis to relieve Appellant's court-appointed attorney.

On April 4, 2018, Appellant appeared before the court again on a motion for a continuance and a motion for a mental evaluation. Appellant's counsel advised that he was compelled to ask for the mental evaluation after discovering Appellant suffered from schizophrenia during the prior hearing before the court. The circuit court then engaged Appellant in the following colloquy:

Court: Al[]right. [Appellant], how old are you?

Appellant: Forty years old, sir.

. . . .

Court: Have you ever been treated for any mental disability?

Appellant: Yes[] sir.

Court: When?

Appellant: I've been treated pretty much all my life. It started maybe at the age of 15.

. . . .

Court: What's the last job you had?

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Appellant: I was working at Ruby Tuesday, but they had stopped working me because of my mental situation.

Court: And . . . who do you live with?

Appellant: Right now, I don't live with anyone. I'm homeless.

Court: Where did your [disability] check go?

Appellant: It was direct deposited into my bank.

Court: And do you have any children?

. . . .

Appellant: I have three.

The court found that Appellant was competent and that there was no basis to believe Appellant's ability to understand the difference between right and wrong at the time of the incident was affected by his mental state. After Appellant's counsel noted that the court did not ask Appellant any questions regarding the incident and that he had not been on his medication at the time of the incident, the court stated the fact that Appellant was off his medication in and of itself was not enough to compel an evaluation. The court noted that " judges ha[d] been just very recently cautioned on . . . signing . . . for mental evaluations." After granting Appellant's motion for a continuance and denying the motion for a mental evaluation, proceedings concluded for the day.

Appellant's trial took place over the course of two days beginning on April 23, 2018. On day two, the State called Taylor as a witness. Taylor testified that he had known Appellant prior to the incident and had multiple interactions with him—including dinner with him at his house. Taylor stated that on the night of the attack, Appellant continuously knocked on the door, but Taylor told him he could not come inside because the motel policy did not allow visitors at that hour. Eventually, Taylor stated, Appellant kicked in the door and entered the room carrying the gun. Taylor testified that Appellant asked for McCullough by his nickname, "Gold," and Taylor feared Appellant would harm him and the female occupants. Taylor stated McCullough fled the room and returned moments later bleeding profusely. He noted

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that Appellant then entered the room and hit McCullough with a brick several times in the head, neck, back, and body. Taylor stated that while Appellant was attacking McCullough, Appellant exclaimed: "Where is that[,] Gold? Where is that?" According to Taylor, McCullough replied: "You're not going to get it this way." Taylor asserted that Appellant exited the room after grabbing an item off the nightstand and/or from the drawer.

Further, the State called McCullough as a witness. McCullough testified that he first saw Appellant at McCullough's father's place of work, Ruby Tuesday. McCullough recounted the events of the night in question in lockstep with Taylor's recitation—although he provided more details regarding Appellant's assault on him.

Appellant was found guilty as charged and sentenced to twenty-five years for burglary and kidnapping, twenty years for ABHAN, and five years for the weapons charge. This appeal followed.


1. Did the circuit court abuse its discretion by denying Appellant's motion for a mental health evaluation pursuant to an insanity defense even though Appellant allegedly suffered from schizophrenia?

2. Did the circuit court abuse its discretion by denying Appellant's motion for a mental health evaluation to determine Appellant's competency to stand trial?

3. Did the circuit court abuse its discretion by admitting the body camera footage containing McCullough and Taylor's prior consistent statements even though both declarants testified

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