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State v. Hawes

Supreme Court of South Carolina

January 7, 2015

The State, Petitioner,
v.
Alonzo Hawes, Respondent

Heard: June 11, 2014.

Appeal from Greenwood County. Frank R. Addy, Jr., Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2012-212978.

Attorney General Alan M. Wilson and Assistant Attorney General William M. Blitch, Jr., of Columbia, for Petitioner.

E. Charles Grose, Jr., of Grose Law Firm, of Greenwood, and Donna Katherine Anderson, of Laurens, for Respondent.

JUSTICE KITTREDGE. JUSTICE PLEICONES. TOAL, C.J., and Acting Justice Dorothy Mobley Jones, concur. PLEICONES, J., dissenting in a separate opinion in which BEATTY, J., concurs.

OPINION

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

[411 S.C. 189] KITTREDGE, JUSTICE.

With no provocation, Respondent Alonzo Hawes shot and killed his estranged wife in the presence of their children. Following a guilty plea to voluntary manslaughter, the trial court granted Hawes's section 16-25-90 motion for eligibility for early parole, which the court of appeals affirmed. State v. Hawes, 399 S.C. 211, 730 S.E.2d 904 (Ct. App. 2012). We issued a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision. Because the trial court failed to exercise discretion, which was likely the result of its reliance on a prior version of section 16-25-90, we vacate the court of appeals' opinion and remand for reconsideration in light of the correct version of the statute.

I.

In 2007, Hawes visited his estranged wife's home because he wished to take his children to visit a relative. When his wife [411 S.C. 190] refused, Hawes shot and killed her, without provocation, in front of the children and fled the scene of the crime. Hawes was indicted for murder but pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to twenty-two years in prison.[1]

Page 708

At the sentencing hearing, Hawes moved for early parole eligibility pursuant to South Carolina Code section 16-25-90 (Supp. 2013), which provides that an inmate who commits an offense against a household member " is eligible for parole after serving one-fourth of his prison term when the inmate . . . present[s] credible evidence of a history of criminal domestic violence . . . suffered at the hands of the household member." [2]

The State presented evidence that Hawes and his estranged wife had a decade-long tumultuous relationship, which included instances of mutual combat. The State also presented evidence that Hawes was the primary aggressor in the relationship. Nevertheless, the trial court determined that Hawes was eligible for early parole eligibility, erroneously applying a prior version of section 16-25-90, which provided that a defendant " shall be eligible for parole" if he presents " credible evidence of a history of criminal domestic violence . . . suffered at the hands of the household member." S.C. Code Ann. ยง 16-25-90 (2003) (emphasis added). The trial court concluded that it was " compelled" to grant ...


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