Supreme Court Seal
South Carolina
JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT
Site Map | Feedback
2004-UP-487 - State v. Burnett
PREHEARING REPORT

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE.  IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR
 RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 
239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

The State, Respondent,

v.

Chase Randlyn Burnett, Appellant.


Appeal From Spartanburg County
J. Derham Cole, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No.  2004-UP-487
Submitted September 15, 2004 – Filed September 21, 2004


AFFIRMED


Deputy Chief Attorney Joseph L. Savitz, III, Office of Appellate Defense, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Attorney General Melody J. Brown, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Harold W. Gowdy, III, of Spartanburg, for Respondent.

 

PER CURIAM:  Chase Randlyn Burnett appeals her transfer from family court to circuit court and her conviction for murder.  We affirm. [1]

FACTS

On September 21, 1998, Jonathan Burnett found his mother, Robin Burnett, dead in her bedroom.  Police officers discovered Robin had a single gunshot wound to the head and a gun in her hand, giving the initial appearance of suicide.  Officers also determined Robin had most likely died on the night of September 20.  Almost immediately, officers were concerned with the odd position of the gun in Robin’s hand and focused their investigation on Chase Burnett, Robin’s fifteen-year-old daughter. 

Alan Wood and Tim Tucker, of the Spartanburg sheriff’s department, questioned Chase.  After waiving her rights, Chase made two statements to the police.  In her first statement, she denied any knowledge of her mother’s death and stated she spent the day of September 21 with her friends.  However, in her second statement, made approximately one and a half hours after the first, she recalled a nightmare where her mother pointed a gun at her father and herself.  Chase stated she then woke up in her mother’s room, retrieved a gun from under the bed, and pulled the trigger. 

Chase was charged with murdering her mother in a juvenile proceeding in the family court; however, the family court transferred jurisdiction to the circuit court, where Chase was tried and convicted of murder.  The circuit court sentenced Chase to forty years.  The court noted credible evidence of a history of criminal domestic violence pursuant to Section 16-25-90 of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2003), which makes Chase eligible for parole after serving one-fourth of her sentence.  Chase appeals her transfer to circuit court and her conviction for murder.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

“The appellate court will affirm a transfer order unless the family court has abused its discretion.”  State v. Avery, 333 S.C. 284, 292, 509 S.E.2d 476, 481 (1998).  An abuse of discretion occurs when the conclusions of the trial court either lack evidentiary support or are controlled by an error of law.  State v. Wise, 359 S.C. 14, 21, 596 S.E.2d 475, 478 (2004).

LAW/ANALYSIS

Chase appeals her conviction on the grounds that the family court judge’s transfer order was conclusory and without a sufficient factual basis.  We disagree.

Section 20-7-7605(5) of the South Carolina Code (Supp. 2003) allows transfer of jurisdiction over minors ages fourteen and fifteen charged with a serious felony, if after full investigation and a hearing, the family court determines it is contrary to the interest of the child or public to retain jurisdiction.  In Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541 (1966), the United States Supreme Court enunciated eight factors for the family court to consider when transferring a juvenile from family court to circuit court.  In a recent case, our supreme court reiterated those factors:

1.  The seriousness of the alleged offense to the community and whether the protection of the community requires waiver. 

2.  Whether the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, premeditated, or willful manner. 

3.  Whether the alleged offense was against persons or against property, greater weight being given to offenses against persons especially if injury resulted. 

4.  The prosecutive merit of the complaint, i.e., whether there is evidence upon which a Grand Jury may be expected to return an indictment…. 

5.  The desirability of trial and disposition of the entire offense in one court when the juvenile's associates in the alleged offense are adults who will be charged with a crime…. 

6.  The sophistication and maturity of the juvenile as determined by consideration of his home, environmental situation, emotional attitude and pattern of living. 

7.  The record and previous [criminal or adjudicative] history of the juvenile…. 

8.  The prospects for adequate protection of the public and the likelihood of reasonable rehabilitation of the juvenile (if he is found to have committed the alleged offense) by the use of procedures, services and facilities currently available to the Juvenile Court.

State v. Corey D., 339 S.C. 107, 117 n.4, 529 S.E.2d 20, 26 n.4 (2000) (quoting Kent, 383 U.S. at 566-67).

The family court order that transferred jurisdiction over Chase to the circuit court contained findings of facts regarding all of the Kent factors.  Chase argues some of these findings were not supported by evidence and the court’s findings were conclusory. 

Chase specifically addresses the eighth Kent factor, and claims the family court’s finding that “a prospect of rehabilitation within the juvenile system is not good” is unsupported by the record.  However, this finding of fact does have evidentiary support.  While Chase’s mental health diagnosis was in dispute, there was a consensus that she had serious mental health problems. [2]   The issue represented by the eighth Kent factor is whether a family court sentence would offer sufficient time in the Department of Juvenile Justice for Chase to be rehabilitated.  See Sanders v. State, 281 S.C. 53, 56, 314 S.E.2d 319, 321 (1984) (stating the serious nature of the offense is a major factor in the transfer decision, especially where a family court sentence cannot extend past the twenty-first birthday, whereas the circuit court can impose an adult term sentence).

Several expert witnesses testified at the transfer hearing.  Two psychiatrists and a psychologist testified for the defense and thought it would be appropriate for the Department of Juvenile Justice to rehabilitate Chase, yet none could guarantee rehabilitation under the maximum juvenile detention time frame.  The Department of Juvenile Justice psychiatrist also could not determine with a reasonable degree of medical certainty whether his department could rehabilitate Chase within the time frame.  The evidence of rehabilitation was inconclusive at best. 

Furthermore, evidence indicated that the prospect of rehabilitation prior to Chase’s twenty-first birthday or confinement release date was unlikely.  Chase had ten infractions in the Department of Juvenile Justice that showed “oppositional behavior.”  This resistance to authority was also demonstrated by Chase’s decision to quit taking medication despite the treating physician’s advice to the contrary.  Evidence concerning Chase’s resistance to authority undermines her ability to be rehabilitated within the short time period that a family court sentence would provide and supports the family court’s decision to transfer jurisdiction to the circuit court. 

Additionally, Chase argues the transfer order was conclusory and it was the responsibility of the family court to include a sufficient statement of reasons for, and considerations leading to, its decision.  See In re Sullivan, 274 S.C. 544, 548, 265 S.E.2d 527, 529 (1980).  The family court’s transfer order, however, when paired with the extensive hearing transcript, shows Chase is not deprived of this court’s meaningful review of the decision.  Id. 274 S.C. at 547-48, 265 S.E.2d at 529.  Instead, the entire record demonstrates the family court devoted substantial time and consideration to this issue.  In light of evidence supporting the family court’s decision, we find no error in the family court’s order.

AFFIRMED.

STILWELL, BEATTY, and SHORT, JJ., concur.


[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.

[2]   A defense expert diagnosed Chase as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and secondary depression whereas the state psychiatrist diagnosed her with depression, features of borderline personality disorder, and adjustment and anxiety disorders.