State v. Hepburn – Homicide by child abuse convictions overturned

In State v. Hepburn, decided yesterday, the S.C. Supreme Court overturned the second of two convictions for homicide by child abuse from Laurens, S.C., ordering a directed verdict because there was not sufficient evidence for the case to go to the jury.

In State v. Lewis, decided May 15, 2013 the Court of Appeals reversed Lewis’ conviction for aiding and abetting homicide by child abuse, finding that the evidence presented at trial established only that he was present at the scene, which is not enough to support a conviction.  Although the evidence establishes that one of the two, Lewis or Hepburn, caused the child’s injuries, it did not establish which of them was responsible – Hepburn claims that she was asleep, and Lewis claims that he was watching television in another room.  Evidence of flight and of Lewis’ suicide attempt, in the absence of direct evidence, are not enough.

In Hepburn, the S.C. Supreme Court affirmed “the waiver rule,” which basically says that if the defendant testifies after the denial of a directed verdict, 1) they must renew their motion for directed verdict at the close of the defense case; and 2) the appellate court can consider any evidence presented by the defendant when deciding if a directed verdict should have been granted.  However, the waiver rule does not apply to 1) a co-defendant’s testimony; or 2) the defendant’s testimony that is provided solely in response to the co-defendant’s testimony.  The waiver rule only applies when the defendant’s testimony goes beyond this and tends to establish the elements of the state’s case.

Edit: the original post said this case was out of Greenwood, but the case was in Laurens, S.C.

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