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State v. Heyward

Supreme Court of South Carolina

May 15, 2019

The State, Respondent,
Denzel Marquise Heyward, Petitioner. Appellate Case No. 2018-000981

          Heard March 27, 2019

          Appeal from Charleston County Roger M. Young, Sr., Circuit Court Judge


          Chief Appellate Defender Robert Michael Dudek and Appellate Defender Donald Michael Mathison, both of Columbia, for Petitioner.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Scott Matthews, and Assistant Attorney General James Clayton Mitchell, III, all of Columbia, for Respondent.


         Petitioner Denzel Heyward was indicted for murder, attempted murder, armed robbery, and possessing a firearm during a crime of violence for an incident that resulted in the death of Kadeem Chambers. The jury could not reach a verdict as to murder, but found Heyward guilty of the remaining charges. The trial court sentenced him to an aggregate term of 65 years. Heyward appealed, asserting the court erred by admitting a photo lineup identification and by finding his counsel opened the door to the admission of testimony that he had previously committed domestic violence. The court of appeals affirmed. State v. Heyward, 422 S.C. 488, 812 S.E.2d 432 (Ct. App. 2018). We now reverse and remand for a new trial.


         During the trial, Quasantrina Rivers-the mother of Heyward's child and a cooperating codefendant-testified that she drove Heyward and Dashaun Simmons-another codefendant-to a residence in Ridgeville where Heyward retrieved a gun. She then drove the men to an acquaintance's house on Johns Island. Another car containing two men (Chambers and his brother, Jujuain Hemingway) drove up, and after speaking to one of the occupants, Heyward "bum rushed"[1] him and pushed him against the car. Simmons then approached the car from the woods carrying a rifle and forced the two men to lay on the ground. Heyward and Simmons demanded to know "where everything was at," but the men responded they had nothing. Thereafter, Heyward stomped his foot on the back of Hemingway's head, and Simmons fired a shot in his direction. Heyward and Simmons forced the men to open the trunk of their car and took a suitcase from it. Chambers then began to "tussle" with Simmons when two shots rang out, striking Chambers. Heyward and Simmons fled with Rivers, who drove them back to Ridgeville. The group spent much of the next two days there before Rivers ultimately turned herself in to police. Chambers passed away at the hospital. Hemingway testified similarly regarding the events of the night in question.

         Prior to trial, Heyward sought to prohibit Rivers from testifying that he had allegedly physically abused her during their relationship. In moving to exclude the testimony, he argued he had no prior convictions for domestic violence and the allegations had no bearing on any element of a crime charged, resulting only in undue prejudice.

         The State explained it wanted to introduce the evidence to help the jury understand the complicated relationship between Heyward and Rivers, including the fact that despite agreeing to testify against Heyward, she continued to visit him frequently in jail. According to the State, the allegations demonstrated his ability to manipulate her. Further, it helped explain why Rivers allegedly drove Heyward and Simmons to retrieve a gun, drove them to and from a robbery, and then took two days to turn herself in to police. The State asserted allegations of domestic violence would not cause the jury to assume Heyward committed murder.

         The trial court determined the State was attempting to introduce the evidence to demonstrate Heyward's bad character, which Rule 404(b), SCRE, is designed to prevent. The court stated it would not allow Rivers to testify about prior incidents of abuse on direct examination, but noted the testimony could be permitted to rehabilitate her.

         At trial, the State called Rivers' mother, Sidearis Singleton, who testified about Rivers' behavior after the incident and her decision to turn herself in. On cross-examination, Heyward asked Singleton whether Rivers had attempted suicide before, whether she knew if Rivers had mental health issues, and whether Rivers had ever accused Singleton's husband of sexually assaulting her. Singleton answered she did not know to each question.

         On redirect, the State asked Singleton who had abused Rivers. Heyward objected, and the court stated: "[w]ell, you raised the-you raised the issue. I guess she would-you introduced it, so-." The court then held an off-record bench conference at Heyward's request. The State proceeded with questioning, asking Singleton who had physically harmed Rivers in any way. She responded that Heyward had committed domestic violence against Rivers. Singleton testified Heyward had a history of physically abusing Rivers and she had seen Rivers after some of the abuse, noticing her hair had been pulled out and her lip was busted or swollen. Rivers later testified her ...

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