State v. Hughes

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Citation336 S.C. 585,521 S.E.2d 500
Decision Date04 October 1999
Docket NumberNo. 25003.,25003.
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Mar-Reece Aldean HUGHES, Appellant.

336 S.C. 585
521 S.E.2d 500

The STATE, Respondent,
Mar-Reece Aldean HUGHES, Appellant

No. 25003.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard May 26, 1998.

Decided October 4, 1999.

336 S.C. 589
Stephen D. Schusterman, of Rock Hill; and Christina Chadwick Brice, of York, for appellant

Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Attorney General Robert

336 S.C. 590
F. Daley, Jr., all of Columbia; and Solicitor Thomas E. Pope, of York, for respondent

MOORE, Justice:

Appellant was sentenced to death for the murder of Officer Brent McCants who was killed during a routine traffic stop. We affirm.


On September 25, 1992, appellant and Eric Forney, armed with a gun, accosted two college students in the parking lot of a restaurant in Charlotte, North Carolina, and stole their car. The two men then drove to Rock Hill where Officer McCants stopped them for driving without headlights. McCants was shot several times and his police-issue walkie-talkie was taken from his belt as he lay on the side of the road. Appellant and Forney were apprehended shortly thereafter.

The State sought the death penalty against both appellant and Forney. They were tried separately. At his trial, Forney claimed appellant was the triggerman. Forney was convicted of murder, criminal conspiracy, and armed robbery and was acquitted of possession of a pistol during the commission of a violent crime. After the jury failed to return a unanimous verdict in the sentencing phase, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. This sentence was affirmed on appeal. State v. Forney, 321 S.C. 353, 468 S.E.2d 641 (1996).

At appellant's trial, appellant admitted he participated in the armed robbery of the vehicle and that he was driving at the time McCants stopped them, but claimed Forney shot McCants from the passenger seat and stole the officer's walkie-talkie. Appellant was convicted of murder, armed robbery, criminal conspiracy, possession of a stolen vehicle, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime. The jury found as an aggravating circumstance that the victim was a local law enforcement officer performing his official duties.


1) Sentencing phase admission of jailhouse crimes

During the sentencing phase, evidence was admitted that while in prison awaiting trial for the murder of Officer

336 S.C. 591
McCants, appellant killed a sleeping cellmate by stabbing him in the throat with a "shank." He was in the process of stabbing another cellmate when he was stopped by prison guards. These crimes occurred April 12, 1993

In response to this evidence, appellant introduced expert testimony that he was mentally ill (paranoid schizophrenic) at the time. Appellant's expert testified appellant's actions on April 12th were not indicative of his character since he was mentally ill at the time. Further, there was evidence appellant had no further disciplinary problems once he was medicated for his mental illness. The trial judge charged the jury that the April 12th crimes should be considered only "as evidence of [appellant's] character, his characteristics, and/or his future dangerousness."

On appeal, appellant contends admission of the evidence regarding the April 12th crimes was improper because he was mentally ill at the time and therefore this evidence was not reliable character evidence.1 We disagree.

First, there was no contemporaneous objection to the introduction of this evidence at the sentencing phase of trial. The trial judge ruled in limine that the evidence was admissible. An in limine ruling, however, is not final and does not preserve the issue for appeal. State v. Schumpert, 312 S.C. 502, 435 S.E.2d 859 (1993). Accordingly, this issue is not preserved.

In any event, it is well-settled evidence of the defendant's behavior in prison is admissible in capital sentencing because it bears upon his character. State v. Stewart, 283 S.C. 104, 320 S.E.2d 447 (1984). The State may establish as an aggravating factor that the defendant would in the future pose a danger to others if not executed. State v. Patterson, 290 S.C. 523, 351 S.E.2d 853 (1986), vacated on other grounds, 500 U.S. 950, 111 S.Ct. 2253, 114 L.Ed.2d 707 (1991) (citing

336 S.C. 592
Jurek v. Texas, 428 U.S. 262, 96 S.Ct. 2950, 49 L.Ed.2d 929 (1976) and Barefoot v. Estelle, 463 U.S. 880, 103 S.Ct. 3383, 77 L.Ed.2d 1090 (1983)). A defendant has the reciprocal right to present evidence he would adapt well to prison life. Id.

Here, the evidence appellant brutally killed one person and attempted to kill another while in prison was admissible as evidence of future dangerousness. Expert testimony appellant was mentally ill at the time and therefore acting "uncharacteristically" does not render evidence of his actions in prison inadmissible. The sentencing jury is charged with considering all possible relevant information about the individual defendant whose fate it must determine. State v. Tucker (Tucker II), 324 S.C. 155, 173, 478 S.E.2d 260, 270 (1996), cert. denied 520 U.S. 1200, 117 S.Ct. 1561, 137 L.Ed.2d 708 (1997). It was for the jury to weigh all the evidence regarding appellant's behavior to assess his character and propensity or lack of propensity for violence. See State v. Nelson, 331 S.C. 1, 501 S.E.2d 716 (1998) (generally in evidentiary law character refers to an individual's propensity).2

2) Nondisclosure of complete SLED summary

During the sentencing phase, appellant moved for a mistrial on the ground the State had failed to disclose, in violation of Rule 5, SCrimP, part of a report by the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) concerning the April 12th jailhouse crimes. Specifically, counsel complained she had not received the first seventeen pages of a SLED investigative summary indicating three inmates gave statements that around the time of the stabbings appellant talked about seeing "a little green man." The State contended it was not required to disclose the summary because it was work product exempt under Rule 5. The trial judge denied a mistrial finding appellant was not prejudiced by the failure to disclose.

336 S.C. 593
Rule 5(a)(1)(C), SCrimP, exempts internal prosecution documents made in connection with an investigation. We need not determine here whether the report in question is exempt3 since we agree with the trial judge's ruling that appellant has shown no prejudice from the failure to disclose. See State v. Trotter, 317 S.C. 411, 453 S.E.2d 905 (Ct.App. 1995) aff'd in result 322 S.C. 537, 473 S.E.2d 452 (1996) (violation of Rule 5 not reversible where no prejudice); State v. Thompson, 276 S.C. 616, 281 S.E.2d 216 (1981) (State's failure to disclose does not warrant reversal unless defendant deprived of a fair trial).4

The information regarding the inmates' statements was available to the defense before trial from the report of Dr. Morgan which refers to inmates Jennings's, Walker's, and Gaithers's statements regarding the "little green man." The trial judge had these three inmates transported to court during trial to be interviewed by defense counsel. Further, appellant's experts, Drs. Kohanski and Dupree, both testified they had information appellant told fellow inmates of "a little green man" talking to him. In conclusion, appellant was not prejudiced by the partial disclosure of the SLED investigative summary since the information was available from other sources.

3) Involuntary statements

In the guilt phase of trial, State witness Jennings, an inmate, testified he heard appellant tell a group of inmates: "The best feeling I ever had is when I killed that cop." State

336 S.C. 594
witness Strain, a prison guard, testified he overheard appellant say to another inmate that "he was going to kill him another white boy." Appellant claims the trial judge erred in refusing to exclude these statements as involuntary because appellant was mentally ill at the time.

Absent coercive police conduct causally related to a confession, there is no basis for finding a confession constitutionally involuntary. A defendant's mental condition in and of itself does not render a statement involuntary in violation of due process. Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 107 S.Ct. 515, 93 L.Ed.2d 473 (1986). Further, under State law, a...

To continue reading

Request your trial
34 cases
  • State v. Aleksey, 25212.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 13 de novembro de 2000
    ...penalty imposed in similar cases, where, as here, the single aggravating circumstance was death of a police officer. See State v. Hughes, 336 S.C. 585, 521 S.E.2d 500 (1999); State v. Johnson, 306 S.C. 119, 410 S.E.2d 547 (1991); State v. South, 285 S.C. 529, 331 S.E.2d 775 AFFIRMED. TOAL, ......
  • Owens v. Stirling, C/A No. 0:16-cv-2512-TLW-PJG
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court of South Carolina
    • 12 de janeiro de 2018 evidence of Owens's character, another relevant consideration under state law during a sentencing proceeding. See State v. Hughes, 521 S.E.2d 500, 503 (S.C. 1999) ("[I]t is well-settled evidence of the defendant's behavior in prison is admissible in capital sentencing because it bears up......
  • State v. Woods, 26623.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 30 de março de 2009
    ...cert. denied ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 182, 172 L.Ed.2d 129 (2008); State v. Evins, 373 S.C. 404, 645 S.E.2d 904 (2007); State v. Hughes, 336 S.C. 585, 521 S.E.2d 500 (1999), cert. denied 529 U.S. 1025, 120 S.Ct. 1434, 146 L.Ed.2d 323 (2000); State v. Johnson, 306 S.C. 119, 410 S.E.2d 547 (19......
  • State v. Hill, 25868.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 13 de setembro de 2004
    ...constitutionally involuntary. Colorado v. Connelly, 479 U.S. 157, 164, 361 S.C. 307 107 S.Ct. 515, 93 L.Ed.2d 473 (1986); State v. Hughes, 336 S.C. 585, 594, 521 S.E.2d 500, 505 (1999); see also State v. Doby, 273 S.C. 704, 709, 258 S.E.2d 896, 899 (1979) (under state law, a confession is n......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT