State v. Jarrell, No. 3489.

CourtCourt of Appeals of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtHEARN, C.J.
Citation564 S.E.2d 362,350 S.C. 90
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Sharron Blasky JARRELL, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. 3489.
Decision Date13 May 2002

350 S.C. 90
564 S.E.2d 362

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Sharron Blasky JARRELL, Appellant

No. 3489.

Court of Appeals of South Carolina.

Heard February 5, 2002.

Decided May 13, 2002.

Rehearing Denied June 19, 2002.


350 S.C. 95
James W. Boyd, of Rock Hill, for appellant

Attorney General Charles M. Condon, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Robert E. Bogan and Assistant Attorney General Toyya Brawley Gray; all of Columbia; and Solicitor Thomas E. Pope, of York, for respondent.

HEARN, C.J.

Sharron Jarrell was charged with homicide by child abuse, accessory before the fact of murder, accessory after the fact of murder, first degree criminal sexual conduct, and three counts of unlawful conduct towards a child. A jury found Jarrell guilty of all charges except criminal sexual conduct first degree. She appeals her convictions alleging several errors occurred during the trial.1 We affirm.

FACTS

On June 25, 1998, Jarrell called EMS and reported that her ten-month-old baby, Donald Jarrell Jr., was not breathing. When paramedics arrived, they found the baby was dead and rigor mortis had begun to set in. When the police arrived at the residence they observed that the trailer was filthy with animal feces, fly strips, baby bottles with clabbered milk, unwashed dishes, dirty diapers, and it smelled of urine. Residing at the trailer with Jarrell at the time of the baby's death were Donald Jarrell Sr. (Father), Jarrell's mother Grenetta Blaskey, and Jarrell's three other minor children. The Department of Social Services took temporary emergency custody of the three children due to the condition of the residence.

After an autopsy, the coroner found the baby had suffered severe repeated sexual abuse and determined that he died from suffocation and smothering the previous day. Investigators asked Jarrell about her whereabouts and activities on that date. She responded that she had been shopping with her mother and children. After receiving a page from her husband, she returned home around 9 P.M.

350 S.C. 96
She initially stated that when she returned home she checked on the baby, kissed him goodnight, and he seemed fine. However, Jarrell later changed her story and stated that she thought Father smothered the baby because of his bad temper and he could not handle the baby's crying. Later, she changed her story again and said that she knew the baby was dead when she returned home that evening, but she did not call an ambulance that night because she did not want to upset her mother and children. The next morning upon "discovering" her baby's death, Jarrell immediately called Father at work, and then called EMS. That same day, she reported the baby's death to the insurance company which had issued a $24,000 life insurance policy on the child

Jarrell and Father were arrested for the death of her baby. After her arrest, she admitted to police that she knew Father was molesting the baby. While in jail, Jarrell discussed the abuse and death of her baby with several inmates: Mary Gillespy, Julie Williams, Angela Doctor, and Tracye Graves. In her conversations with these inmates, Jarrell admitted she used a dildo on the baby to prepare him for sex with Father. She also stated that she and Father planned to kill the baby by smothering him to make it appear to be a SIDS death because the baby had an upcoming doctor's appointment and the abuse would be readily apparent to anyone examining the baby. Jarrell and Father planned that he would kill the baby while Jarrell was out shopping and he would page her to return home when the baby was dead.

Father was charged with murder, to which he pled guilty but mentally ill. Jarrell was indicted for homicide by child abuse, accessory before the fact of murder, accessory after the fact of murder, and first degree criminal sexual conduct. Jarrell was convicted on all counts except criminal sexual conduct. She received life sentences for the homicide by child abuse and accessory before the fact convictions, and fifteen years for the accessory after the fact conviction, concurrent to her life sentences.

DISCUSSION

I. Directed Verdict on Homicide by Child Abuse Charge Jarrell first claims the trial court erred by failing to grant
350 S.C. 97
her a directed verdict on the homicide by child abuse charge.2 We disagree.

When considering the trial court's denial of a criminal defendant's motion for directed verdict, "[w]e must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the State and determine whether there is any direct or substantial circumstantial evidence that reasonably tends to prove the defendant's guilt or from which his guilt may be logically deduced." State v. Pinckney, 339 S.C. 346, 349, 529 S.E.2d 526, 527 (2000). In ruling on a directed verdict motion, the trial court is concerned with the existence or non-existence of evidence, not its weight. Id. Furthermore, "[i]f the State presents any evidence which reasonably tends to prove the defendant's guilt or from which the defendant's guilt could be fairly and logically deduced, the case must go to the jury." State v. Harris, 342 S.C. 191, 203, 535 S.E.2d 652, 658 (Ct.App.2000).

The jury found Jarrell guilty of homicide by child abuse "under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life." S.C.Code Ann. § 16-3-85(A)(1) (Supp. 2001). Jarrell argues the trial court erred in denying her motion for directed verdict because the State failed to prove the proper mental state. Specifically, she claims the evidence presented at trial showed she participated in planning the death of the baby which would constitute malice. She contends that because one cannot have both malice and indifference towards another person, she could not be guilty of homicide under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to human life.

Jarrell defines indifference as "impartial, unbiased, or disinterested." Under her definition, she contends that any action, or failure to act in the face of a duty, would negate her indifference, thus making it impossible for her to be guilty

350 S.C. 98
under this specific statute. Jarrell's definition, however, fails to focus on the term extreme indifference as it has historically been interpreted in a criminal context

Extreme indifference is in the nature of "a culpable mental state ... and therefore is akin to intent." State v. Vowell 276 Ark. 258, 634 S.W.2d 118, 119 (1982) (citation omitted). In this state, indifference in the context of criminal statutes has been compared to the conscious act of disregarding a risk which a person's conduct has created, or a failure to exercise ordinary or due care. See State v. Rowell, 326 S.C. 313, 315, 487 S.E.2d 185, 186 (1997) (discussing the requisite mental state for recklessness); see generally Hooper v. Rockwell, 334 S.C. 281, 297, 513 S.E.2d 358, 367 (1999) ("Conduct of the parent which evinces a settled purpose to forego parental duties may fairly be characterized as wilful because it manifests a conscious indifference to the rights of the child to receive support and consortium from the parent."). At least one other jurisdiction with a similar statute has found that "[a] person acts `under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life' when he engages in deliberate conduct which culminates in the death of some person." Davis v. State, 325 Ark. 96, 925 S.W.2d 768, 773 (1996). Therefore, we reject Jarrell's definition of the term indifference and hold that in the context of homicide by abuse statutes, extreme indifference is a mental state akin to intent characterized by a deliberate act culminating in death.

In light of this definition of extreme indifference, and after reviewing the record, we find that substantial evidence supports the denial of Jarrell's motion for directed verdict. The State presented evidence of Jarrell's actions in planning the murder both before it occurred, and also presented evidence of her actions on the day of the child's death. Two different levels of intent may be gleaned from her actions depending on the particular point in time. We find the events of the day of the baby's death to be the most significant to our analysis regarding Jarrell's extreme indifference. We agree with Jarrell that her conviction of accessory before the fact of murder indicated she acted with malice aforethought in planning the murder of her child. See State v. Kelsey, 331 S.C. 50, 62, 502 S.E.2d 63, 69 (1998) ("Malice is the wrongful intent to injure another and indicates a wicked or depraved spirit intent on

350 S.C. 99
doing wrong."). However, Jarrell's affirmative act of leaving her home on the day of the murder operates as a separate and distinct event from the planning of the murder.3 When she left home, Jarrell created a grave risk of death to her child, evidencing her extreme indifference to his life. She left home knowing her child would be killed while she was gone. Jarrell could have prevented the murder of her son merely by choosing to stay home. Her failure to protect her child is concrete evidence of her indifference towards his life.

A parent has a specific and undelegable duty to serve the best interests of her child and should make every effort not to knowingly place her child in harm's way. See generally Nash v. Byrd, 298 S.C. 530, 536, 381 S.E.2d 913, 916 (Ct.App. 1989) (stating parents have a duty to lend their aid in creating an atmosphere that will foster the best interests of their child). We can think of no better example of someone who is indifferent towards life than a mother who leaves her child knowing he will be killed in her absence. Therefore, in light of our holding as to the definition of "extreme indifference" in the context of S.C.Code Ann. § 16-3-85, we find there is ample evidence to support the trial court's denial of the motion for directed verdict.

II. Written Statement of Mary Gillespy

Mary Gillespy was an inmate...

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43 practice notes
  • State v. Martucci, No. 4438.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 24, 2008
    ...of discretion. Rosemond, 335 S.C. at 597, 518 S.E.2d at 590; see State v. Tucker, 324 S.C. 155, 478 S.E.2d 260 (1996); State v. Jarrell, 350 S.C. 90, 564 S.E.2d 362 (Ct. App.2002). However, photographs calculated to arouse the sympathy or prejudice of the jury should be excluded if they are......
  • State v. Carlson, No. 3948.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 22, 2005
    ...490 (1995); Brady, 373 U.S. at 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194; State v. Von Dohlen, 322 S.C. 234, 241, 471 S.E.2d 689, 693 (1996)); State v. Jarrell, 350 S.C. 90, 107, 564 S.E.2d 362, 372 (Ct.App.2002), cert. denied. The rule applies to impeachment evidence as well as exculpatory evidence. Gibson at 524......
  • State v. Fletcher, No. 3940.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 31, 2005
    ...(2003). "Extreme indifference is in the nature of a culpable mental state ... and therefore is akin to intent." State v. Jarrell, 350 S.C. 90, 98, 564 S.E.2d 362, 367 (Ct.App.2002) (internal quotations In addition, evidence identifying the perpetrator may be admissible. State v. Forney, 321......
  • State v. Greene, Appellate Case No. 2014-000764
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 23, 2018
    ...by a deliberate act culminating in death." McKnight v. State , 378 S.C. 33, 48, 661 S.E.2d 354, 361 (2008) (quoting State v. Jarrell , 350 S.C. 90, 98, 564 S.E.2d 362, 367 (Ct. App. 2002) ).In this case, sufficient evidence was presented to show that Appellant was addicted to prescription d......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
43 cases
  • State v. Martucci, No. 4438.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • September 24, 2008
    ...of discretion. Rosemond, 335 S.C. at 597, 518 S.E.2d at 590; see State v. Tucker, 324 S.C. 155, 478 S.E.2d 260 (1996); State v. Jarrell, 350 S.C. 90, 564 S.E.2d 362 (Ct. App.2002). However, photographs calculated to arouse the sympathy or prejudice of the jury should be excluded if they are......
  • State v. Carlson, No. 3948.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • February 22, 2005
    ...490 (1995); Brady, 373 U.S. at 87, 83 S.Ct. 1194; State v. Von Dohlen, 322 S.C. 234, 241, 471 S.E.2d 689, 693 (1996)); State v. Jarrell, 350 S.C. 90, 107, 564 S.E.2d 362, 372 (Ct.App.2002), cert. denied. The rule applies to impeachment evidence as well as exculpatory evidence. Gibson at 524......
  • State v. Fletcher, No. 3940.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 31, 2005
    ..."Extreme indifference is in the nature of a culpable mental state ... and therefore is akin to intent." State v. Jarrell, 350 S.C. 90, 98, 564 S.E.2d 362, 367 (Ct.App.2002) (internal quotations In addition, evidence identifying the perpetrator may be admissible. State v. Forney, 3......
  • State v. Greene, Appellate Case No. 2014-000764
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • May 23, 2018
    ...a deliberate act culminating in death." McKnight v. State , 378 S.C. 33, 48, 661 S.E.2d 354, 361 (2008) (quoting State v. Jarrell , 350 S.C. 90, 98, 564 S.E.2d 362, 367 (Ct. App. 2002) ).In this case, sufficient evidence was presented to show that Appellant was addicted to prescription......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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