September 19, 2018
From Greenville County Perry H. Gravely, Circuit Court Judge
Appellate Defender Kathrine Haggard Hudgins, of Columbia, for
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Deputy
Attorney General David A. Spencer, both of Columbia; and
Solicitor William Walter Wilkins, III, of Greenville, all for
Hill appeals his voluntary manslaughter conviction,
contending the trial court erred by admitting several
statements the State obtained in violation of Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), into evidence. We reverse
midday on August 14, 2013, Greenville County Sheriff's
officers responded to a 911 call by Michael Barksdale from
his home in the Judson Mill community. The first responding
officer found Billy Patterson deceased outside the home. The
officers interviewed Barksdale and spoke with his roommate,
Hill, but deemed Hill too intoxicated to be questioned.
Officers observed that Hill, who is disabled due to a hip
injury, relied on a cane to walk. Hill repeatedly volunteered
that Patterson had ripped off the screen door of the home.
The officers photographed the scene and retrieved several
samples of blood evidence from the patio, screen door, and
other areas. After the officers determined Hill had an
outstanding bench warrant for failure to appear, he was
arrested and transported to the Law Enforcement Center (LEC).
next morning, Lead Investigator Fortner, along with
Investigator Bailey, attended Patterson's autopsy and
learned the cause of death was blunt force trauma caused by
repeated blows from a cylindrical object such as a broom
handle or cane. The Investigators went to sign Hill out of
detention to question him, only to discover he had been
released earlier that morning. They then obtained a search
warrant for Barksdale's house and drove there to execute
it. Hill was there when they arrived, having walked home from
the LEC. Hill testified he had consumed "over a
pint" since returning home. During the search, the
Investigators seized a wooden cane from Hill's bedroom.
They then asked Hill to accompany them to the LEC so they
could speak with him, promising to drive him back home later.
record is murky, but it appears the group arrived at the LEC
around 3:00 p.m. The Investigators escorted Hill to a common
work area for the homicide division, furnished with six desks
and numerous chairs. No other people were present. Hill had
not been handcuffed or advised he was in (or not in) custody.
Rather than recording the interview, the Investigators typed
a summary of Hill's statement on a
"victim/witness" form, which reflected a time of
3:27 p.m. Hill explained in the statement that Patterson, a
friend, came to Hill's house around 6 p.m, and they began
drinking and watching television. Patterson later became
unable to move, so Hill told him to lie on the floor. A few
hours later, around 11 p.m., Barksdale came in from work and
advised Hill to let Patterson "sleep it off." Soon
thereafter, Patterson stood up and announced he was leaving
but fell while holding the screen door, taking it to the
ground with him. Hill and Barksdale managed to get Patterson
back inside, where he slept a few more hours before leaving.
Later in the night, Hill heard his dog barking, went outside,
and saw Patterson sitting in the backyard next to the house.
Hill came outside again around 9 or 10 a.m. and noticed
Patterson now had an injury to his eye and black and blue
marks on his back. Hill gave Patterson some water. Around 11
a.m. or noon, Hill found Patterson had no pulse and asked
Barksdale to call 911.
Hill gave this statement, the Investigators left the room to
confer, focusing on how Hill's version conflicted with
Barksdale's. Fortner then resumed his questioning of
So we went back and talked with Mr. Hill. I brought up the
television set. It was pretty obvious that he liked his
television. He spoke about it that day while we were there
and he had mentioned something about it during the course of
our interview. So then I asked him if Mr. Patterson had maybe
tried to steal his television while he was there? And I could
tell by his actions . . . he actually looked like he was
about to cry. And he broke down and said that yes that he
did. And then that he had tapped him twice.
point, the Investigators took Hill across the hall to a video
interview room. The video, admitted as a State's exhibit,
begins at 5:17 p.m. and runs forty-six minutes. The video
shows Hill, whose sobriety was questionable, initialed but
did not sign a set of warnings printed on a Waiver of Rights
form. When asked by the Investigators if he could read the
warnings, he explained he did not have his glasses. When Hill
remarked the Investigators had "already told him"
he could not go home, Bailey responded "we didn't
tell you you couldn't go home; we told you we could not
make that decision until we find out what you have to tell
us." The Investigators advised Hill they could not talk
any further with him about what happened unless he signed the
form, but the statement they wanted from him was "no
more than what you've already said." They assured
Hill they would not throw him any "curveballs."
When Hill commented that by signing the form he would be
"signing his rights away," the Investigators
advised he was not signing his rights away, just
"waiving" them by "setting them aside,"
and that "your rights are still there." They told
him he was "probably going to jail tonight." Hill
commented "my cane must have matched the bruises."
Hill then agreed to talk provided it was "off the
record," a condition never clarified. Bailey left the
room and called an assistant solicitor for an opinion on
Hill's refusal to sign the form. Upon his return, he
informed Hill the solicitor "said we can talk with you
without you signing this," but there is no confirmation
Hill understood the significance of the development. At the
Investigators' prodding, Hill confessed he hit Patterson
numerous times with his cane when he caught Patterson trying
to steal his television.
Jackson v. Denno, 378 U.S. 368 (1964), hearing, the
trial court observed the Investigators' questioning of
Hill "turned" custodial after they conferred about
the inconsistent evidence. The trial court, however, denied
Hill's motion to suppress his statements. During
Fortner's direct examination, Hill again objected to the
admission of his statements made at the LEC. After hearing
extensive arguments outside the jury's presence, the
trial court concluded it was "a very close call"
but again denied Hill's motion to suppress, finding Hill