State v. Hughey

Decision Date27 March 2000
Docket NumberNo. 25096.,25096.
Citation529 S.E.2d 721,339 S.C. 439
CourtSouth Carolina Supreme Court
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. John Kennedy HUGHEY, Appellant.

Assistant Appellate Defender Robert M. Dudek, of South Carolina Office of Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for appellant.

Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, of Columbia, Solicitor W. Townes Jones, IV, of Greenwood, all for respondent.

TOAL, Justice:

John Kennedy Hughey ("Hughey") seeks a reversal of his conviction and death sentence for the murders of Tesheka Lanyra Jackson ("Jackson") and Luevinia H. Harris ("Harris"). We affirm.


On December 4, 1995, Hughey forcibly entered Harris's house and had an altercation with his former girlfriend, Jackson. While Hughey and Jackson were arguing, Harris was on the phone with her son, Marcus Harris, from Oklahoma City. Harris told her son to call the police because Hughey had a gun, so he immediately called 911. Harris also called the Abbeville City Police Department to request help. While Harris was on the phone with the dispatcher, Hughey shot both Harris and Jackson with a shotgun. Harris died from a solitary gunshot wound to the head. Jackson had three major injuries: (1) a gunshot wound to the back of her head, from a maximum shooting distance of two feet; (2) a large bruise on her face, likely caused by the blunt end of the shotgun; and (3) a stab wound in her chest.

Within thirty minutes of the shooting, Hughey stole Jackson's car and used her ATM card in Anderson. Hughey was arrested in Georgia and told the authorities "I killed them, it was an accident, the gun went off." Prior to the incident, Hughey left a note on his door that stated: "As of this morning I will be dead. Love you all. Please take care of my kids. John K." After his arrest, Hughey gave an oral statement to Agent Eddie Clark. Hughey claimed he and Jackson had an altercation at Harris's house. According to Hughey, Jackson threw a vase at him and went outside to get a shotgun from her car. Harris tried to get between Hughey and Jackson, grabbed the gun, and the gun accidentally fired. According to Hughey, Jackson chased him into the bedroom, they struggled for the gun, and he accidentally shot her.

Hughey gave an inconsistent statement during the guilt phase of the trial. He denied making the statement to the police after his arrest. At trial, Hughey claimed Harris invited him in for coffee and Jackson attacked him with a vase and a knife. According to Hughey, Jackson charged him with a knife and he pushed her resulting in a stab. Hughey then ran out of the house to get the shotgun from the car. He claims that Jackson stood on the steps and threatened to kill him. As he approached her, Jackson spit on him and attempted to slam the door. While they struggled at the door, the gun went off and Harris was shot. Hughey admitted that he was angry and attempted to shoot at Jackson. He chased Jackson into the bedroom where he shot her in the back of the head with a twenty gauge shotgun.

On March 11, 1996, Hughey was indicted in Abbeville County for: (1) the murder of Jackson; (2) the murder of Harris; (3) burglary in the first degree; and (4) grand larceny of a vehicle. On October 27, 1997, the jury found Hughey guilty on all four counts. The jury found beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of all statutory aggravating circumstances and returned a recommendation of death for each count of murder. On October 30, 1997, the trial judge sentenced Hughey to: (1) death for each count of murder; (2) a life sentence for burglary in the first degree; and (3) ten years imprisonment for grand larceny.

Hughey appeals his death sentence for both murders, raising the following issues:

(1) Whether the trial judge erred by refusing to disqualify juror # 55, Brian Daly ("Daly"), since he was employed at the McCormick Correctional Institution, and S.C.Code Ann. § 24-3-930 (1989) provides that "[a]ll guards and officers employed at the Penitentiary shall be exempted from serving on a jury", and whether Daly was the functional equivalent of a law enforcement officer?
(2) Whether the trial judge erred by refusing to provide specific examples of legal provocation in the jury charge of voluntary manslaughter?
(3) Whether the trial judge should have excluded the testimony of Mack Harris, the husband of Luevinia Harris, during the guilt phase concerning the blood he cleaned off the floor of his home after the murders?
(4) Whether the trial judge erred by refusing to charge the statutory mitigating circumstances contained in S.C.Code Ann. § 16-3-20(C)(b)(6) (Supp.1998), which allows the jury to consider: (1) the capacity of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his conduct; or (2) the defendant's ability to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law?
(5) Whether the trial judge erred by allowing the victim impact witnesses to testify in narrative form, rather than question-answer format, and whether this format was beyond the permissible scope of Payne v. Tennessee, 501 U.S. 808, 111 S.Ct. 2597, 115 L.Ed.2d 720 (1991)?
(6) Whether the trial judge erred by instructing the jury that a non-statutory circumstance was "one which the defendant contends serves the same purpose" as a statutory mitigating circumstance?
(7) Whether the trial judge erred in admitting State's Exhibit 95, a graphic color photograph of the victim's head wound?
A. Exemption versus Disqualification
Hughey argues section 24-3-930 disqualifies a correctional officer from serving on a jury. We disagree.
South Carolina recognizes a difference between "exemptions" and "disqualifications" from jury duty. An exemption from jury duty is not a disqualification to act as a juror, but is a personal privilege that the juror may claim or waive. 50A C.J.S. Juries § 304 (1955); see also 15A Words and Phrases Exempt; Exemption (1950) ("A person exempted from jury services is not thereby disqualified to serve on a jury."). This Court has held an exemption from jury duty is not a disqualification. See State v. Matthews, 291 S.C. 339, 343, 353 S.E.2d 444, 447 (1986) ("An exemption under [S.C.Code Ann. § 14-7-850] is a privilege and not a disqualification."); State v. Toland, 36 S.C. 515, 521, 15 S.E. 599, 600 (1892) ("exemption was a personal privilege which [jurors] might or might not claim, but it did not disqualify them as jurors.").

S.C.Code Ann. § 24-3-930 (1976) provides "that all guards or keepers and other officers employed at the Penitentiary shall be exempted from serving on juries and from military or street duty." (emphasis added). In drafting this section, the South Carolina legislature chose the term "exempted." However, in other code sections relating to juror qualification, the legislature chose to use the term "disqualifications." See, e.g., S.C.Code Ann. § 14-7-430 (1976) ("Persons drawn shall serve unless dead, disqualified, or removed from county"); S.C.Code Ann. § 14-7-820 (1976) ("Disqualification of county officers and court employees"). The use of these separate terms in different sections of the Code demonstrates the legislature's intent to draw a distinction between an exemption and a disqualification. Therefore, the trial judge did not err in ruling that section 24-3-930 did not disqualify juror Daly.

B. Disqualification under S.C.Code § 14-7-820 (1976)

Hughey argues section 14-7-820 disqualifies a juror who considers himself to be a member of law enforcement. We disagree.

Section 14-7-820 provides "No clerk or deputy clerk of the court, constable, sheriff, probate judge, county commissioner, magistrate or other county officer or any person employed within the walls of any courthouse shall be eligible as a juryman in any civil or criminal case." "This court has adopted a functional rather than a rigid formalistic approach in interpreting and applying the provisions of this statute." State v. Cooper, 291 S.C. 332, 334, 353 S.E.2d 441, 442 (1986). A juror's belief that he is the member of law enforcement is not enough to disqualify him under this statute.

This Court held in State v. Johnson, 123 S.C. 50, 115 S.E. 748 (1923) that a juror would be disqualified under section 14-7-820 when he or she was vested with like powers and duties of a law enforcement officer. In Bryant v. State, 264 S.C. 157, 213 S.E.2d 451 (1975), we held that a special deputy sheriff who did not perform the duties of a law enforcement officer was not disqualified under the statute. Daly is a corrections officer whose duties do not involve enforcing the criminal laws of this State. Hughey offers no evidence that Daly "was vested with like powers and duties of a ... sheriff," Cooper, 291 S.C. at 334-335, 353 S.E.2d at 442. Hughey only argues that Daly's questionnaire indicates he considered himself a member of law enforcement. In light of the fact that the voir dire of Daly reveals no bias, Mr. Daly's subjective view of his employment does not disqualify him under section 14-7-820. Furthermore, section 24-3-930, discussed supra, speaks to the eligibility of an officer or guard employed by the penitentiary for jury duty. Therefore, section 24-3-930, not section 14-7-820, governs the eligibility of a corrections officer for jury duty.


Hughey argues the trial judge erred by refusing to provide specific factual examples of legal provocation in the voluntary manslaughter charge. We disagree.

The trial judge is required to charge only the current and correct law of South Carolina. Cohens v. Atkins, 333 S.C. 345, 509 S.E.2d 286 (Ct.App.1998). The substance of the law must be charged to the jury, not particular verbiage. Keaton v. Greenville Hosp. Sys., 334 S.C. 488, 514 S.E.2d 570 (1999). A jury charge is correct if when the charge is read as a whole,...

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