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Case Number: 2018-001269
Court: South Carolina Court of Appeals on appeal from the Circuit Court, Charleston County
Plaintiff's Attorney: Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy
Attorney General W. Jeffrey Young, Deputy Attorney
General Donald J. Zelenka, Senior Assistant Deputy
Attorney General Melody Jane Brown, Assistant
Attorney General Tommy Evans, Jr., all of Columbia;
and Solicitor Scarlett A. Wilson, of Charleston; all for
Description: Charleston, South Carolina criminal defense lawyers represented Defendant charged with murder and attempted murder.
Shortly after midnight, in the early morning hours of May 10, 2015, Richard
Simmons contacted the North Charleston Police Department to report gunshots.
While Simmons was talking to Robinson, Kelly Green, and Latrell Hamilton
outside of Robinson's home, a moving vehicle fired at the group. None of the men
were wounded, but Simmons's car was damaged. An officer responded to the
scene, collected evidence, and then left not long after he arrived. Simmons,
Robinson, Green, and Hamilton then began calling their friends, whom they knew
had guns, to come to Robinson's house to prepare for another shooting should one
occur. At trial, Simmons testified that Keon Anderson, Robinson's uncle,
Derrontae Holmes, and two other men responded to their calls and showed up with
At roughly 1:30 A.M., while the men stood in Robinson's yard conversing,
occupants of another car shot in close proximity to the men;
1 however, according
to Simmons, the shots were not fired directly at them. All the men jumped into
three separate cars to chase their assailants. Simmons, Robinson, and Anderson all
got into the same car, a Honda CR-V, and all three were armed. Simmons drove,
Robinson was in the front passenger seat, and Anderson was in the right rear
While patrolling the neighborhood, the posse spotted an unfamiliar Chrysler 300,
and someone shot at the vehicle. A car chase ensued as the Chrysler 300 attempted
1 There is confusion in the record as to whether the second shooting was a drive-by
or whether the assailants were on foot. Simmons testified the shots came from a
vehicle, but he did not see the vehicle. Others testified that the shooters were on
to escape. The chase lasted roughly ten and a half miles,
2 and two of the vehicles
dropped out of the chase because the Chrysler 300 was much faster. After losing
sight of the Chrysler 300 and searching for a short time, Simmons pulled up beside
an identical Chrysler 300 stopped at a traffic light. Over objection from Robinson
and Anderson, Simmons shot several times into the driver's side door of the
Chrysler. Simmons even stated he had to push Robinson out of the way to fire the
gun. Although Simmons fired his own weapon at the car, he had to retrieve it from
Robinson who was using it because Robinson's gun was out of bullets. Inside the
mistaken Chrysler was Kedena Brown (Victim). She died from two gunshot
wounds—one to the left side of her head and one to the left side of her throat.
Police arrested Robinson for the murder several days later.
As a juvenile, the family court initially held jurisdiction over Robinson, but the
State moved to transfer jurisdiction to Charleston County General Sessions court.
After a hearing, the family court issued an order that determined it was in the best
interest of Robinson and the public that he be tried as an adult. In the court's order,
it evaluated Robinson's case under the Kent3 factors and determined the factors
militated towards a transfer of jurisdiction. After the transfer, a Charleston County
grand jury indicted Robinson for murder and four counts of attempted murder.
Thereafter, Simmons, who was adamant Robinson was the shooter throughout the
investigation of Victim's death, confessed he was the triggerman. Robinson,
arguing this was newly-discovered evidence, filed a motion with the trial court
seeking a transfer of jurisdiction back to the family court. Robinson claimed that
because he was not the shooter, his culpability in Victim's murder was diminished.
He argued this critical fact was in dispute when the family court made its decision,
and had this fact been known to the family court, it would have been more likely to
retain jurisdiction over his case. The trial court refused to transfer jurisdiction,
finding the family court's transfer order articulated all the relevant Kent factors and
that this new fact alone was insufficient evidence to warrant a transfer.
Prior to his trial, Robinson argued to suppress all evidence that associated him with
a gang pursuant to Rule 404(b), SCRE. The State's theory for introducing such
2 It was disputed whether the occupants of the Chrysler were shooting back at the
three cars during the chase. Simmons claimed he never saw shots fired from the
Chrysler. Anderson testified to the contrary. The Chrysler was pulled over shortly
after the chase and no guns were found in the car, but two of the Chrysler's
occupants tested positive for gunshot residue several hours after their arrest. 3 Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 566–67 (1966).
evidence was that the shootings at Robinson's home, provoking Victim's murder,
were the product of a gang war in Robinson's neighborhood. The State intended to
prove Robinson was a member of the Young Gunnas, a rival gang of Loud Pack,
and that the gang war served as motive and intent for Victim's murder. The court
denied Robinson's motion, stating the gang evidence was relevant, the State could
prove his involvement in the gang by clear and convincing evidence, and the
documented shootings between the gangs were admissible to prove motive, intent,
or a common scheme. The court also found that although the introduction of the
evidence created a genuine risk of unfair prejudice, it did not violate Rule 403,
At trial, through sixteen of its thirty-two witnesses, the State elicited testimony
regarding the supposed gang war. The State questioned witnesses about their
affiliations with the two gangs, Robinson's affiliation with the Young Gunnas, two
other murders that occurred in Robinson's neighborhood, and several other
shootings in the neighborhood. At the outset of trial, the State questioned the four
men who occupied the Chrysler 300 during the car chase. All four men testified
they did not know the nine men chasing them, except for Robinson and Simmons,
and that the posse had no reason to shoot at them. The men also testified they did
not know what caused friction between the Young Gunnas and Loud Pack or if
tension even existed. They also stated they were not members of Loud Pack and
that they did not know if Robinson was a Young Gunna.
Simmons, Anderson, Green, and Leroy Manigault also testified about the gangs.
Simmons testified that he knew of the gangs but was not a member of the Young
Gunnas. He stated, however, that he was associated with the gang because his
friends were members. When asked if Robinson was a member of the gang,
Simmons first stated "I don't think so" but then admitted Robinson was a member
after further questioning. He also stated he thought it was Loud Pack members that
shot at him but that he did not think the men who occupied the Chrysler 300 were
in that gang. Simmons further testified he was not sure what caused the friction
between the two gangs but noted the "streets were saying" Robinson's cousin, who
was the head of the Young Gunnas, killed a member of Loud Pack. Anderson
stated he knew of the gangs and their conflicts but it was "street talk, nothing that
[he] knew for sure." Like Simmons, Anderson did not know the men identified in
the Chrysler 300 or why they would target his group. He also said he had heard
Robinson was a Young Gunna but that the gang was not active in 2015.
Manigault, a participant in the car chase and the supplier of Robinson's weapon,
testified he thought the men in the Chrysler 300 were in Loud Pack and that they
were the shooters. He talked about Loud Pack and how people said Robinson's
cousin shot a member of the gang but that it was not true. He also discussed two
other shootings that he participated in several days after Victim's death. Manigault
believed the target of one of the subsequent shootings was involved in the
shootings at Robinson's home. He also stated Robinson and his uncle were both
Young Gunnas. On cross-examination, Manigault admitted he had no firsthand
knowledge concerning the two gangs and their tumultuous relations and that he
was not a member of the Young Gunnas. Green, on the other hand, admitted he
was a member of the Young Gunnas and stated that Robinson was a member too.
He testified the occupants of the Chrysler 300 were members of a gang but not
Loud Pack and that those two gangs were not associated. He did not think Loud
Pack was responsible for the drive-by shootings at Robinson's home. Green also
discussed the strain between the two gangs, claiming "the streets" said members
from both sides were killing each other and that Robinson's cousin—again,
according to the streets—killed a rival gang member. He admitted he had no
firsthand knowledge and that it was all based on rumor.
The State also elicited testimony regarding Robinson wearing an ankle monitor at
the time of the shooting and the charges that were pending against him that forced
him to wear the monitor. The GPS within Robinson's ankle monitor placed him at
the crime scene on the night of the murder. This fact was undisputed at trial. The
State also proved Simmons's presence at the crime scene through cell phone data.
The State then introduced evidence through several witnesses regarding spent shell
casings found around Robinson's neighborhood during investigations of other
shootings. The inference from the shells was that all of the shootings were
connected and proved a gang war that Robinson was involved in through his uncle.
Detective Jerome Desheers, who the court refused to qualify as an expert, testified
he was a member of an FBI taskforce called Safe Streets. His duties included
identifying gangs, their activities, and their members. Desheers testified about the
killings that had taken place in Robinson's neighborhood and identified the
members of each gang who were suspected to be the killers. Based on his
knowledge surrounding the shootings and the individuals involved, Desheers
opined "there is an ongoing battle between" the Young Gunnas and Loud Pack
with both sides "shooting back and forth." On cross-examination, Desheers
admitted no member of either gang had been charged with the murders he
suspected caused the gang war. He also admitted he had not interviewed any
participants in the gang war regarding Victim's death.
Prior to the jury charge, Robinson requested the trial court instruct the jury on
voluntary manslaughter as a lesser-included offense of murder. The trial court
refused, stating no evidence suggested Simmons acted out of a heat of passion.
The jury found Robinson guilty as indicted, and after holding an individualized
sentencing hearing pursuant to Aiken v. Byars,
4 the trial court sentenced Robinson
to concurrent terms of fifty years' imprisonment for murder and ten years'
imprisonment for each count of attempted murder. This appeal followed.
Outcome: Affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded for a new trial.