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Thread: Mar-reece Aldean Hughes - South Carolina Death Row

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    Oct 2010

    Mar-reece Aldean Hughes - South Carolina Death Row

    York County Sheriff’s Deputy Brent McCants

    Facts of the Crime:

    Convicted of the September 25, 1992 shooting murder of York County Sheriff’s Deputy Brent McCants.

    Hughes was sentenced to death on September 23, 1995 in York County.

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    Administrator Heidi's Avatar
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    Oct 2010
    York County deputy killer still on death row, courts wait for his competency's 'return'

    A Charlotte man serving a death sentence after he was found guilty in the shooting death of a York County deputy 20 years ago remains alive in a South Carolina prison after the state Supreme Court ruled he is mentally incompetent.

    Mar-reece Aldean Hughes, 46, has spent the last 17 years on death row after a jury found him and Dwayne Eric Forney, also of Charlotte, guilty in the 1992 shooting death of Brent McCants, a York County sheriff’s deputy who had been on the job for only two months.

    A few years after his sentence was handed down, Hughes asked that his appeals be dropped and he be executed. After several competency hearings and decisions by judges, the Supreme Court ruled that Hughes wasn’t competent enough to decide to drop his appeals.

    There hasn’t been another decision since then and Hughes’ case will remain “stayed” until “his competency is returned,” said Bryan Stirling, spokesman for the state attorney general’s office.

    Until the court can determine Hughes is once again mentally competent, his request for execution remains in limbo and his appeals pending, Stirling said.

    Hughes and Forney, now 45, carjacked a Buick from two Davidson College students in a Charlotte restaurant parking lot on Sept. 25, 1992.

    They then drove the car, headlights off, to Rock Hill, where McCants pulled them over on Dave Lyle Boulevard near the area where Manchester Village is now located.

    McCants, 23, was then fatally shot. He’s the last officer in York, Chester and Lancaster counties murdered while on duty.

    Hours later, Hughes and Forney were arrested and charged with McCants’ murder. Hughes had just been paroled from a North Carolina prison a week before after serving nine years of a 15-year sentence for burglary. Forney had been on probation for a robbery in North Carolina.

    In March 1994, Forney, then 27, was sentenced to life plus 31 years in prison in connection with McCants’ death on charges of murder, armed robbery, illegally carrying a weapon and criminal conspiracy.

    Prosecutors at first accused him of firing the shots that killed McCants, but a jury acquitted him of using a gun during the murder and armed robbery, deciding that he didn’t pull the trigger.

    The jury remained deadlocked on deciding whether Forney should be put to death, compelling the judge – by law – to sentence Forney to life in prison, said 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett.

    Forney later testified that Hughes shot McCants. In 10 years – on the 30th anniversary of McCants' death – Forney will be eligible for parole.

    In 1993, while awaiting his own trial, Hughes killed James Earl Williamson, a fellow inmate in the York County prison, by slitting his throat with a pocketknife. He claimed he was “hearing from little green men,” said Tommy Pope, Brackett’s predecessor as solicitor, who prosecuted the case.

    A Circuit Court judge decided that Hughes was mentally incompetent when he committed the jailhouse murder and ordered that he undergo a psychiatric evaluation. Seven psychiatrists evaluated Hughes and suggested anti-psychotic medication that would restore him to competency.

    Hughes, though, refused to take the medicine, Pope said.

    Ultimately, Hughes was medicated and stood trial for McCants’ murder, but not for killing the inmate because the court determined he was mentally incompetent when he killed Williamson, Pope said. That case was dismissed with the right to restore.

    In the fall of 1995, a jury found Hughes guilty in McCants’ shooting death and a week later he was sentenced to death plus 40 years in prison, Brackett said.

    Four years later, while in prison, Hughes used a makeshift knife to stab a death row guard at the Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville before he took the guard’s keys and freed another convicted cop-killer.

    They were recaptured and Hughes was moved to a maximum-security cell at the Kirkland Correctional Institution, where he remains today.

    Hughes appealed his death sentence, claiming that statements he made to a witness suggesting that the best thing he had ever done was kill a cop should not have been allowed as evidence in his trial because he was not mentally sound when he made them.

    Soon after, Hughes asked for his appeals to be dropped and said he wanted to be executed immediately. His lawyers argued for years that he was insane and couldn’t be executed.

    In 2006, the Supreme Court made its decision and Hughes’ case remains in limbo.

    In its ruling, the court said Hughes didn’t understand the appeals process or why he was being punished.

    "It is clear he does not understand the nature of the PCR (post-conviction relief) proceeding which he wishes to waive the right to pursue," the ruling reads.

    The state will have to prove that Hughes is mentally competent without the use of medication and understands his request before proceeding with his execution, Stirling said.

    State law does not allow for the state to administer medication to mentally-ill inmates just so they can be executed.

    Now, Hughes and his lawyers – whom Hughes has tried to fire more than once – will have to decide how they will proceed with the case, Stirling said.

    The attorney general's office "routinely requested conferences" with a Circuit Court judge and Hughes' counsel, but Stirling said no date has been set.

    Efforts to reach Teresa Norris, Hughes’ attorney in his most recent cases, were unsuccessful.

    An uninformed opponent is a dangerous opponent.

    "Y'all be makin shit up" ~ Markeith Loyd

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