VOICES DEFENDANT HEARS IN HIS HEAD DECLARED HEARSAY; DEFENDANT’S RIGHT TO TESTIFY IS LIMITED IN STATE V. BREWTON
Lance Antonio Brewton was charged with murdering Natalie Niemitalo. Brewnton and Niemitalo had an on-again, off-again relationship for approximately two years. On September 25, 2017 Brewton arrived at Niemitalo’s house and after their friend arrived they decided to purchase cigarettes and drinks so Niemitalo got in her mom’s two-door Honda Civic, Brewton got in the back passenger seat and their friend got into the front passenger seat.
Niemitalo put on makeup but after about five minutes Brewton got out of the car, walking around to the driver’s side and started arguing with Niemitalo because he wanted to drive. The friend then heard gunshots shortly after. The friend saw Brewton pull Niemitalo out of the car, get in, and drive away.
The friend then called 911. First responders arrived and treated Niemitalo while Brewton drove by her house in her mom’s Honda Civic. Brazenly, Brewton drove by Niemitalo’s house a second time, and an office initiated a traffic stop. Instead of stopping, Brewton continued to drive for twenty-three miles to his home where he collided with a vehicle in his driveway.
Niemitalo was airlifted to the hospital where she died from the gunshot wound. The police arrested Brewton and collected his gun, a fired bullet, and a spent shell casing.
The case went to trial and at the end of the State’s case Brewton proffered testimony outside the presence of the jury regarding witchcraft and hearing voices in his head. Brewton testified that he thought Niemitalo’s mother and her friend practiced witchcraft and one of them cast a spell on him that caused him to hear the voices. Brewton thought he’d been under this spell for eight to ten months and described “experiencing paranoia” the morning of Niemitalo’s death because the voices were telling him his family was being murdered. “Brewton explained he got in the car’s back seat because the voices were telling him people were trying to kill him. Brewton testified that while the group was sitting in the car, he observed a cement truck drive past Niemitalo’s house, and the voices told him it was going to bury his family alive.”
The State objected to Brewton’s proffer on the grounds that it was full of hearsay, not relevant, and highly prejudicial if relevant. Brewton argued he had a right to give an alternative reason for leaving the scene other than a guilty mind. Interestingly, the trial court ruled Brewton could not testify about witchcraft or hearing voices because it was based on hearsay and its probative value was outweighed substantially by its prejudicial value because it seemed to give rise to an unasserted mental illness defense. Brewton was evaluated by a psychologist and it was determined he was competent to stand trial.
The South Carolina Court of Appeals further cited that every defendant may testify in his own defense however that right is not without limitation.
This is a fascinating case that lets us know that one can’t just testify that the voices told one to do something. Practically, it appears that had a psychologist determined Brewton incompetent to stand trial the Court’s analysis and the case may have ended up very different.
Source: State v. Brewton
 I know there are so many questions such as, “How did Brewton get out of the 2-door Civic when he was in the back seat? How did the friend not see the shooting? Butt…this is how the opinion reads.
 Could this be an exception to hearsay under 803 (3) a then existing mental, emotional, or physical condition?