South Carolina v. BlackwellAnnotate this Case
A jury convicted Ricky Lee Blackwell of kidnapping and killing eight-year-old Heather Brooke Center ("Brooke"), the daughter of his ex-wife's boyfriend, and recommended a sentence of death. After twenty-six years of marriage, Blackwell's wife, Angela, entered into an adulterous relationship with Bobby Center. Blackwell was devastated when Angela left him. Following the breakup, Blackwell attempted suicide, suffered financial problems, and was forced to turn to his parents for support. A confrontation with Angela ended with Blackwell grabbed Center’s eight-year-old daughter and held a gun to her head. Blackwell ignored Angela's pleas for him to release the child. Instead, Blackwell stated that Angela had "pushed this too far," that she "did this," and that she could let him know "what Bobby thinks of this." Blackwell then fatally shot Brooke. Following the shooting, Blackwell fled into the woods behind his daughter's home. When law enforcement surrounded him, Blackwell shot himself in the stomach and was taken to the hospital. While being transported to the hospital and waiting for treatment, Blackwell gave inculpatory statements to the law enforcement officers who questioned him. Blackwell appealed, contending the trial court erred in: (1) finding him eligible for the death penalty despite evidence of mental retardation; (2) failing to disqualify a juror for cause; (3) denying his "Batson" challenge; (4) prohibiting him from cross-examining a State witness using privileged statements the witness made to a mental health counselor and declining to accept the proffer of the mental health records as an exhibit; (5) declining to admit notes of two hospital chaplains as evidence that he was remorseful; and (6) failing to correctly instruct the jury regarding a finding of mental retardation during the penalty phase of the trial. The South Carolina Supreme Court affirmed Blackwell's convictions and sentence.