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State v. Beekman

Supreme Court of South Carolina

April 13, 2016

The State, Respondent,
v.
Richard Burton Beekman, Petitioner

         Heard April 22, 2015.

          Appeal from Pickens County. G. Edward Welmaker, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2013-002002.

         Appellate Defender Laura R. Baer and Carmen V. Ganjehsani, of Richardson Plowden & Robinson, P.A., both of Columbia, and Dayne Phillips, of Lexington; all for Petitioner.

         Attorney General Alan M. Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Christina C. Bigelow, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

         JUSTICE KITTREDGE. HEARN, J. and Acting Justice Jean H. Toal, concur. PLEICONES, C.J., dissenting in a separate opinion in which BEATTY, J., concurs.

          OPINION

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

         KITTREDGE, JUSTICE.

         Petitioner Richard Burton Beekman was convicted of committing first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) with a minor on his stepson (Stepson) and a lewd act upon a child on his stepdaughter (Stepdaughter). We granted a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision affirming the trial court's denial of Beekman's motion to sever the charges. We affirm.

         I.

         In June 2006, Beekman married Mother, who shared joint custody of Stepdaughter and Stepson with her ex-husband. On July 7, 2008, Stepdaughter reported to Mother that Beekman had sexually abused her. Mother took Stepdaughter to the children's grandmother's house for the night, and she and Stepson moved there the next day. At the grandmother's house, Stepson began acting out--scratching his skin, banging his head, hyperventilating, and drawing pictures of Beekman dying. Eventually, a cousin came over to talk to Stepson, and he disclosed to her that he had also been sexually abused by Beekman.

         Beekman was subsequently charged with committing CSC on Stepson and a lewd act on Stepdaughter. The State sought to prosecute both indictments in a single trial. Beekman moved to sever the two charges, arguing they did not arise from the same chain of circumstances, would not be proved by the same evidence, and were not of the same general nature. He further argued he would be substantially prejudiced if the cases were tried jointly. The trial court denied the motion, finding that the events arose out of the same chain of circumstances and there was a " great overlap of evidence."

         The case proceeded to trial. Stepdaughter testified that on the evening of July 6, 2008,[1] she and Stepson slept on couches in the living room because their rooms were messy. She stayed up watching the Disney Channel awhile, but eventually fell asleep. She awoke later in the night to Beekman touching her " private area" beneath her clothes. The television was still on and the news was playing. Beekman was startled when Stepdaughter woke up, and he asked if she knew where the remote was. She threw it at him, and he left the room. According to Stepdaughter, she told Mother the next night about Beekman touching her, and they immediately moved into her grandmother's house.

         Stepson also testified that, on two separate occasions within an eight-month period,[2] Beekman touched Stepson's penis while they were watching the news together. On both occasions, Beekman put his hands under Stepson's clothes and touched Stepson's bare skin. Stepson further stated that Beekman anally penetrated him on one occasion while Stepson was in Beekman's room watching the news.

         After disclosing the abuse, Stepson was examined by Dr. Nancy Henderson, the head of Greenville Hospital System's section on child abuse and neglect and a physician board-certified in child abuse pediatrics. Dr. Henderson testified that Stepson informed her he had been touched on his genitals and that " someone had put his private part into [Stepson's] bottom." Although his rectal exam was normal and did not uncover any signs of scars or ...


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