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State v. Fennell

Supreme Court of South Carolina
531 S.E.2d 512 (2000)


John Fennell (defendant) suffered from paranoid schizophrenia for a number of years. The illness led to Fennell losing his job as an accountant and eventually a divorce. Thereafter, Fennell moved in with his elderly mother and joined the local Civitan Club, where he was appointed to oversee the organization’s candy box program. Fennell collected money that people donated in small boxes placed in local businesses, replenished the candy offered to those donating, and made deposits. Fennell got into a dispute with William Thrailkill, a business owner and a Civitan Club member, regarding an empty candy box at a local store. Two weeks later, Fennell approached Thrailkill at a Civitan Club meeting to discuss the dispute again. Thrailkill refused to talk to Fennell about the matter but made a disparaging remark that angered Fennell. Fennell left the premises, retrieved a handgun from his car, and returned to the meeting, where he shot Thrailkill five times. A stray bullet struck Elihue Armstrong in the arm and chest. Armstrong survived. Thrailkill died two months later from his injuries. The State of South Carolina (plaintiff) charged Fennell with the murder of Thrailkill and assault and battery with the intent to kill Armstrong. After a trial, the jury found Fennell guilty, but mentally ill, on both charges. Fennell moved for a directed verdict on the assault and battery with the intent to kill charge, arguing that the doctrine of transferred intent did not apply. The trial court denied Fennell’s motion and sentenced Fennell to life in prison for murder and 20 years for the other offense. Fennell appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Waller, J.)

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