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State v. Phillips

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

November 12, 2014

The State, Respondent,
v.
Donna Lynn Phillips, Appellant

Heard: September 10, 2014.

Appeal From Pickens County. D. Garrison Hill, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2012-212663.

Appellate Defender LaNelle Cantey DuRant, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General John Benjamin Aplin, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

FEW, C.J. THOMAS and LOCKEMY, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 445

[411 S.C. 127] FEW, C.J.

A jury convicted Donna Lynn Phillips of homicide by child abuse in connection with the death of her grandson. On appeal, Phillips argues the trial court erred by denying her directed verdict motion because the State's evidence was insufficient to prove her guilt. We affirm.

I. Facts and Procedural History

On March 17, 2008, the twenty-two-month old victim arrived by ambulance at the emergency department of Baptist Easley Hospital with no heartbeat or pulse. A urine sample collected from the child tested positive for opiates. After doctors [411 S.C. 128] resuscitated the child, he was airlifted to Greenville Memorial Hospital, where he later died. According to the medical examiner, his death resulted from an overdose of hydrocodone--an opiate.

As part of the investigation into the child's death, an officer with the Pickens County Sheriff's Office retrieved from Phillips' home a bottle of Tussionex-a prescription cough syrup--that was prescribed to her. The officer submitted the bottle for chemical testing, and the results indicated the medication contained hydrocodone.

The State indicted Phillips for homicide by child abuse under subsection 16-3-85(A)(1) of the South Carolina Code (2003). The indictment alleged Phillips caused the death of the child " by facilitating or allowing the excessive ingestion of opiate drugs." In addition, the State indicted Latasha Honeycutt--the child's mother--for homicide by child abuse and Jamie Edward Morris--the child's father and Phillips' son--for aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse under subsection 16-3-85(A)(2). The State tried the three co-defendants together.

At the close of the State's case, Phillips moved for a directed verdict, arguing the State failed to prove she gave the child Tussionex

Page 446

or that she did so with the requisite mental state. The trial court denied the motion. The jury convicted Phillips of homicide by child abuse, and the trial court sentenced her to twenty-five years in prison.[1]

II. Evidence Presented at Trial

At trial, the State presented the following evidence to ...


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