March 27, 2019
from Charleston County Roger M. Young, Sr., Circuit Court
OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
Appellate Defender Robert Michael Dudek and Appellate
Defender Donald Michael Mathison, both of Columbia, for
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Assistant Attorney
General Jonathan Scott Matthews, and Assistant Attorney
General James Clayton Mitchell, III, all of Columbia, for
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.
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" 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...