State v. Hill

Decision Date09 December 1985
Docket NumberNo. 22443,22443
Citation287 S.C. 398,339 S.E.2d 121
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Sherry Lynn HILL, Appellant. . Heard

Thomas A. McKinney, Rock Hill, for appellant.

Atty. Gen. T. Travis Medlock, Asst. Atty. Gen. Harold M. Coombs, Jr., Amie L. Clifford, Staff Atty., Columbia and Sol. William L. Ferguson, York, for respondent.

HARWELL, Justice:

Appellant was charged with the murder of Ricky Goodman. She was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Due to the exclusion of certain proffered expert testimony, we reverse and remand.

Appellant contends that the trial court erred in excluding expert testimony on the "battered woman's syndrome." Appellant and the decedent (Goodman) began dating in 1981 and lived together sporadically until Goodman was killed in 1984. The relationship was marked by Goodman's increasing violence toward the appellant. A good deal of testimony centered around Goodman's verbal and physical abuse of the appellant. The appellant testified that she remained with Goodman in spite of the beatings because she loved him and believed in him. She testified, however, that she was always afraid of Goodman when he was drinking.

On July 4, 1984, the appellant and Goodman went to a drag strip. Both had been drinking. According to appellant's testimony, Goodman began verbally and physically abusing her as they were driving home from the drag strip. Appellant said that she got out of the van and tried to run, but Goodman caught her. She stated that he pointed a pistol at her and pulled the trigger, but threw the gun down when it failed to fire. Goodman then threw her in the back of the van.

Appellant said that when they got home, Goodman carried her inside and started to abuse her again. He then told her that he was going to get something out of the van and either beat her or kill her when he got back. Appellant testified that she was afraid that Goodman had picked up the pistol after putting her in the van earlier that day and that he had gone to get it. Appellant got a rifle, went outside, and shot Goodman in the arm and head.

The State contended that appellant planned to kill Goodman during the ride from the drag strip, went straight to the rifle upon reaching the house, and then shot Goodman once by the front door and again as he was running away.

Appellant's theory at trial was self-defense. On several occasions, the State implied that Goodman's attacks on the appellant had not been very severe because she had not called the police, sought medical attention, or left Goodman. Appellant then proffered expert testimony on the battered woman's syndrome, contending that it was relevant to explain why a battered woman would repeatedly return to her abuser. The judge believed that the testimony was irrelevant and cumulative and therefore refused to allow it. The appellant contends that this evidence, which was relevant to her state of mind at the time of the shooting, was not within the understanding capabilities of the jury.

The central issue in this case is whether expert testimony about the battered woman's syndrome is admissible to help establish a claim of self-defense in a homicide case. The question is one of first impression in this state. We hold that the battered woman's syndrome is a proper subject for expert testimony. If the jury accepted the appellant's version of what happened, that would make the proffered...

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20 cases
  • Com. v. Dillon
    • United States
    • Pennsylvania Supreme Court
    • October 31, 1991
    ...State v. Leidholm, 334 N.W.2d 811 (N.D.1983); State v. Thomas, 13 Ohio App.3d 211, 13 OBR 261, 468 N.E.2d 763 (1983); State v. Hill, 287 S.C. 398, 339 S.E.2d 121 (S.C.1986); State v. Furlough, 797 S.W.2d 631 (Tenn.Crim.App.1990); Fielder v. State, 756 S.W.2d 309 (Tex.Crim.App.1988); State v......
  • Tourlakis v. Morris
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Southern District of Ohio
    • May 30, 1990
    ...State v. Moore, 72 Ore.App. 454, 695 P.2d 985 (1985); Commonwealth v. Stonehouse, 521 Pa. 41, 555 A.2d 772 (1989); State v. Hill, 287 S.C. 398, 339 S.E.2d 121 (1986); State v. Furlough, 1990 WL 40068, 1990 Tenn. Crim.App. LEXIS 293 (Apr. 10, 1990); Fielder v. Texas, 756 S.W.2d 309 (1988); S......
  • Bechtel v. State
    • United States
    • United States State Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma. Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma
    • September 2, 1992
    ...State v. Thomas, 66 Ohio St.2d 518, 423 N.E.2d 137 (1981); Commonwealth v. Stonehouse, 521 Pa. 41, 555 A.2d 772 (1989); State v. Hill, 287 S.C. 398, 339 S.E.2d 121 (1986); State v. Devita, 1989 WL 34130 (Tenn.Cr.App.1989); State v. Furlough, 797 S.W.2d 631 (Tenn.Cr.App.1990); Fielder v. Sta......
  • State v. Steele
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • May 15, 1987
    ...v. Torres, 488 N.Y.S.2d 358, 128 Misc.2d 129 (N.Y.Super.1985); State v. Leidholm, 334 N.W.2d 811 (N.D.1983) (dictum); State v. Hill, 287 S.C. 398, 339 S.E.2d 121 (1986); Fielder v. State, 683 S.W.2d 565 (Tex.App.1985); State v. Allery, 101 Wash.2d 591, 682 P.2d 312 (1984); Annot., 18 A.L.R.......
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1 books & journal articles
  • State v. Riker, Battered Women Under Duress: the Concept the Washington Supreme Court Could Not Grasp
    • United States
    • Seattle University School of Law Seattle University Law Review No. 19-02, December 1995
    • Invalid date
    ...(sleeping husband case); State v. Koss, 551 N.E.2d 970 (Ohio 1990); Commonwealth v. Stonehouse, 555 A.2d 772 (Pa. 1989); State v. Hill, 339 S.E.2d 121 (S.C. 1986); State v. Furlough, 797 S.W.2d 631 (Tenn. Crim. App. 1990); Fielder v. State, 756 S.W.2d 309 (Tex. 1988); Blair v. Blair, 575 A.......

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