State v. Hill, No. 25868.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtChief Justice TOAL
Citation604 S.E.2d 696,361 S.C. 297
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. David Mark HILL, Appellant.
Decision Date13 September 2004
Docket NumberNo. 25868.

361 S.C. 297
604 S.E.2d 696

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
David Mark HILL, Appellant

No. 25868.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard January 22, 2004.

Decided September 13, 2004.

Rehearing Denied November 23, 2004.


361 S.C. 300
Assistant Appellate Defender Robert M. Dudek and Jeffrey P. Bloom, both of Columbia, for appellant

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, and Assistant Attorney General Melody J. Brown, all of Columbia, and Solicitor Barbara R. Morgan, of Aiken, for respondent.

Chief Justice TOAL:

Appellant was convicted of capital murder and related charges for killing three employees at the Aiken County Department of Social Services (DSS) on September 16, 1996. We affirm appellant's murder convictions and three death sentences, vacate his conviction for attempted murder, and reverse his conviction for burglary.

FACTUAL/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

When these murders took place, appellant was married and had three children: a three-year-old daughter who was a quadriplegic1 and twin two-year-old boys. DSS became involved with the family because of concern about the parents' abuse of prescription drugs. The children were eventually removed from the home.

On the morning of September 16, 1996, appellant had a telephone conversation with his caseworker, James Riddle. Appellant then called his sister-in-law, Tammy Campbell, to ask for a ride to the DSS office. Tammy and her husband gave appellant a ride to the Business & Technology Center where the DSS office was located. On the way, appellant said that he was tired of people "playing God" with his children. The Campbells dropped appellant off at the front of the building.

361 S.C. 301
Sometime before 2:00 p.m., several DSS workers returned to work after a birthday luncheon. Annette Michael was walking towards her cubicle in the DSS office area when another worker, Josie Currie, approached with her hands up. Appellant was behind Josie with a gun. Josie asked Annette where James Riddle's office was. When Annette motioned with her hand, appellant told her to step in behind Josie. The three of them walked down the aisle to James's cubicle. James was seated at his desk speaking on the telephone. Josie stepped into the cubicle and said, "This man would like to see you."

Appellant fired a shot into the cubicle, hitting James in the head. He then pointed the gun over Annette's shoulder and shot Josie in the head. Annette fell with Josie as a third shot was fired. Annette saw James fall over in his chair and she saw a hole in his forehead before she fainted on the floor. Another DSS worker, Michael Gregory, was found dead of a gunshot wound in the men's restroom. Both Josie and James died within the next few hours. Annette was not injured.

The next morning, police were still searching for appellant. At around 9:20 a.m., appellant was found lying on the railroad tracks behind the building with his gun nearby. He had a bullet hole through the roof of his mouth and an exit wound in the top of his skull. Although he was seriously injured, appellant was able to speak. After he was taken to the hospital, he was given Miranda warnings. Appellant admitted to the shootings. He said he first shot Michael Gregory in the restroom because Gregory had seen him. He shot James Riddle because Riddle was his caseworker. He shot Josie Currie "because she was black."

At trial, defense counsel conceded appellant was guilty of the shootings and urged that the real issue was the penalty to be imposed. Appellant was convicted of three counts of murder, one count of attempted murder, kidnapping, second-degree burglary, and weapon charges. At the penalty phase, the jury found four aggravating circumstances: (1) murder while in commission of a burglary, (2) kidnapping, (3) two or more persons murdered, and (4) risk of death of two or more persons in a public place. The jury returned three death sentences.

361 S.C. 302
As to the guilt phase of the trial, appellant raises the following issues for review
1. Did the trial judge properly find appellant competent to stand trial?
2. Did the trial court have subject matter jurisdiction on the attempted murder charge?
3. Did the trial judge properly deny a motion for directed verdict on the burglary charge?
4. Did the trial judge properly admit appellant's statement regarding Josie Currie?

As to the penalty phase, appellant raises the following issues for review:

5. Did the trial judge properly charge section 16-3-20(A) as requested?
6. Did the trial judge properly restrict voir dire?

LAW/ANALYSIS

1. Competence

Appellant contends the trial judge erred in finding him competent to stand trial because of his memory loss surrounding the murders. We disagree.

The test for determining competency to stand trial is whether the defendant has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and whether he has a rational as well as a factual understanding of the proceedings against him. State v. Weik, 356 S.C. 76, 81, 587 S.E.2d 683, 685 (2002), cert. denied, 539 U.S. 930, 123 S.Ct. 2580, 156 L.Ed.2d 609 (2003); State v. Bell, 293 S.C. 391, 395-96, 360 S.E.2d 706, 708 (1987). The defendant bears the burden of proving his incompetence by a preponderance of the evidence. Weik, 356 S.C. at 81, 587 S.E.2d at 685. The trial judge's decision as to whether the defendant is competent to stand trial will be upheld if supported by any evidence. Id.

At the competency hearing, Dr. Evans testified appellant had frontal lobe damage from the gunshot wound to his brain and some resulting memory loss after the trauma. Dr. Bellard testified appellant had difficulty with his memory during

361 S.C. 303
the time leading up to the crime but admitted "it is possible [appellant] does remember what happened during the crime." Dr. Bellard further stated appellant understood the charges against him and could follow the proceedings if he paid attention. The State's expert testified appellant was competent

The trial judge found appellant failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that his alleged memory loss rendered him incompetent. The evidence, which indicates that appellant understood the charges and the proceedings, supports this ruling.

2. Attempted murder charge

Appellant was indicted for assault with intent to kill (AWIK) and "attempted murder" for shooting at Annette Michael, whom he shot at but missed. Because both charges involved the same victim, the State elected to proceed on the attempted murder charge rather than AWIK. The indictment for AWIK was nol-prossed. Appellant was convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life. He contends the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction of this charge under this Court's decision in State v. Sutton, 340 S.C. 393, 532 S.E.2d 283 (2000). We agree.

In State v. Sutton, the Court of Appeals held attempted murder is not a recognized offense in South Carolina. 333 S.C. 192, 194, 508 S.E.2d 41, 42 (Ct.App.1998). This decision was filed October 26, 1998, and we granted certiorari on July 8, 1999. Appellant's trial commenced February 7, 2000. On May 15, 2000, we affirmed as modified the Court of Appeals' ruling in Sutton, holding that attempted murder is not a recognized offense in South Carolina. 340 S.C. at 398, 532 S.E.2d at 286.

The State argues that in affirming the Court of Appeals, we did not reiterate the Court of Appeals' analysis that such an offense "never existed," but instead clarified the definition of AWIK and concluded the offense of attempted murder is unnecessary. The State claims our decision is therefore a new rule that should apply prospectively only. We disagree. A decision announcing a new rule of law will be given retroactive effect to all cases pending on direct review.

361 S.C. 304
State v. Jones, 312 S.C. 100, 102, 439 S.E.2d 282, 282 (1994). Accordingly, we vacate the attempted murder conviction and the five-year sentence for possession of a firearm during the attempted murder.

3. Burglary conviction

Appellant was convicted of second-degree burglary under S.C.Code Ann. section 16-11-312(B)(1) (2003), which provides:

(B) A person is guilty of burglary in the second degree if the person enters a building without consent and with intent to commit a crime therein, and either:
(1) When, in effecting entry or while in the building or in immediate flight therefrom, he or another participant in the crime:
(a) Is armed with a deadly weapon or explosive; or
(b) Causes physical injury to any person who is not a participant in the crime; or
(c) Uses or threatens the use of a dangerous instrument; or
(d) Displays what is or appears to be a knife, pistol, revolver, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, or other firearm.

Under section 16-11-310(1)(b), "building" includes a structure where people assemble for purposes of business or government. Further, the same section states:

Where a building consists of two or more units separately occupied or secured, each unit is deemed both a separate building in itself and a part of the main building.

(emphasis added).

Appellant contends the trial judge erred in denying appellant's motion for directed verdict on the burglary charge because there is no evidence he entered without consent. The State contends the DSS office area was "separately secured" from the public area and, because appellant had no authority to enter that area, his entry was without consent.

The DSS offices are located in the Business & Technology Center, also referred to as the "BTC building." Glass front doors are at the main entrance to the building and these open onto the main hall that runs down the length of the building with an exit at the end. DSS has its own outside entrance on

361 S.C. 305
the right side of the building that leads into the DSS lobby. There is also a locked employee entrance that opens...

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11 practice notes
  • Commonwealth v. Rushing
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • June 28, 2013
    ...(“Appeals to religion do not render confessions involuntary unless they lead to the suspect's will being overborne.”) and State v. Hill, 361 S.C. 297, 604 S.E.2d 696, 701 (2004)). The Saint Court concluded that, based on the totality of circumstances, there was “no evidence that the religio......
  • Talley v. State, No. 26250.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • January 22, 2007
    ...(applying Jones in determining State v. Gentry, 363 S.C. 93, 610 S.E.2d 494 (2005), should be applied retroactively); State v. Hill, 361 S.C. 297, 604 S.E.2d 696 (2004) (applying Jones in determining State v. Sutton, 640 S.E.2d 881 340 S.C. 393, 532 S.E.2d 283 (2000), should be applied retr......
  • State v. Saint, No. M2007-00424-CCA-R3-CD.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee
    • September 9, 2008
    ...("Appeals to religion do not render confessions involuntary unless they lead to the suspect's will being overborne."); State v. Hill, 361 S.C. 297, 604 S.E.2d 696, 701 (2004) (same). Rather, the proper focus remains on the totality of the circumstances and whether the defendant's will was o......
  • State v. Stanko, No. 26442.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 25, 2008
    ...must render the trial fundamentally unfair. Mu'Min v. Virginia, 500 U.S. 415, 431, 111 S.Ct. 1899, 114 L.Ed.2d 493 (1991); State v. Hill, 361 S.C. 297, 308, 604 S.E.2d 696, 702 Appellant argues that he was deprived of his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury as a result of the trial c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
11 cases
  • Commonwealth v. Rushing
    • United States
    • Superior Court of Pennsylvania
    • June 28, 2013
    ...(“Appeals to religion do not render confessions involuntary unless they lead to the suspect's will being overborne.”) and State v. Hill, 361 S.C. 297, 604 S.E.2d 696, 701 (2004)). The Saint Court concluded that, based on the totality of circumstances, there was “no evidence that the religio......
  • Talley v. State, No. 26250.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • January 22, 2007
    ...(applying Jones in determining State v. Gentry, 363 S.C. 93, 610 S.E.2d 494 (2005), should be applied retroactively); State v. Hill, 361 S.C. 297, 604 S.E.2d 696 (2004) (applying Jones in determining State v. Sutton, 640 S.E.2d 881 340 S.C. 393, 532 S.E.2d 283 (2000), should be applied retr......
  • State v. Saint, No. M2007-00424-CCA-R3-CD.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Tennessee. Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee
    • September 9, 2008
    ...("Appeals to religion do not render confessions involuntary unless they lead to the suspect's will being overborne."); State v. Hill, 361 S.C. 297, 604 S.E.2d 696, 701 (2004) (same). Rather, the proper focus remains on the totality of the circumstances and whether the defendant's will was o......
  • State v. Stanko, No. 26442.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 25, 2008
    ...must render the trial fundamentally unfair. Mu'Min v. Virginia, 500 U.S. 415, 431, 111 S.Ct. 1899, 114 L.Ed.2d 493 (1991); State v. Hill, 361 S.C. 297, 308, 604 S.E.2d 696, 702 Appellant argues that he was deprived of his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury as a result of the trial c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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