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2010-UP-570 - State v. Brooks

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE. IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 268(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

The State, Respondent,

v.

Altony Brooks, Appellant.


Appeal From Berkeley County
Judge Kristi L. Harrington, Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No.  2010-UP-570 
Submitted December 1, 2010 – Filed December 31, 2010


AFFIRMED


Deputy Chief Appellate Defender Wanda H. Carter, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, and Assistant Attorney General Mark R. Farthing, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Scarlett Anne Wilson, of Charleston, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM: Altony Brooks appeals his conviction for aiding a suspect's escape from police custody, arguing the trial court erred in denying his motion for a directed verdict.  We affirm.[1]

"When ruling on a motion for a directed verdict, the trial court is concerned with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight." State v. Weston, 367 S.C. 279, 292, 625 S.E.2d 641, 648 (2006).  A reviewing court must uphold the denial of a directed verdict where "there is any direct evidence or substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the guilt of the accused . . . ."  Id. at 292-93, 625 S.E.2d at 648.  The reviewing court "views the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the [S]tate."  Id. at 292, 625 S.E.2d at 648. 

Under section 16-9-420 of the South Carolina Code (2003), "[w]hoever aids or assists a prisoner in escaping or attempting to escape from an officer . . . shall be punished by imprisonment . . . ."  Generally, "[a] defendant may not be convicted of a criminal offense unless the State proves beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted with the criminal intent . . . required for a particular offense."  State v. Fennell, 340 S.C. 266, 271, 531 S.E.2d 512, 515 (2000).  "The intent with which an act is done denotes a state of mind, and can be proved only by expressions or conduct, considered in the light of the given circumstances."  State v. Tuckness, 257 S.C. 295, 299, 185 S.E.2d 607, 608 (1971).  Whether a defendant acted with the requisite criminal intent is ordinarily a question of fact for the jury, unless no evidence of criminal intent exists.  Id.

Viewed in the light most favorable to the State, the State presented direct and substantial circumstantial evidence that Brooks intended to help a suspect escape police custody.  While police officers attempted to handcuff the suspect, Brooks accosted and pushed the officers, interfering with their attempts to arrest the suspect.  The suspect escaped, and one of the officers began to assess how to pursue the suspect.  Brooks immediately attacked that officer, punching him twice.  Because of Brooks's conduct, the officer was unable to pursue the suspect.  Therefore, the State presented direct and substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove that Brooks intended to help the suspect escape police custody.  Accordingly, the trial court properly denied Brooks's motion for a directed verdict.

AFFIRMED.

THOMAS, PIEPER, and GEATHERS, JJ., concur.


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