On Friday, July 15th a preliminary hearing was held for Joi and Jaquez Hill.
Both Hills were charged with murder and possession of a weapon during a violent crime. The warrants were amended and the two were charged with murder again.
It is alleged that on June 6th Joi Hill was at 11166 Bethel Hwy in the Paxville Community of Clarendon County when she got into a confrontation with Bryant Bowman. The state accuses that Ms. Hill called her son Jaquez Hill and told him to “bring me my piece”, referring to her gun. Mr. Hill then arrives at the scene, according to the State, shots were fired and Ms. Hill along with Shanaya Jonnale Larkins fled in one direction and Mr. Hill fled in another direction. Larkins is charged with accessory after the fact
On June 21st Ms. Hill was granted a $75,000.00 surety bond with GPS monitoring, with a required curfew. Mr. Hill was denied bond. In the bond hearing, the state alleged that Ms. Hill had given a statement saying that her son was the shooter.
In Friday’s Preliminary hearing the State said that was not true, Ms. Hill did not say that Mr. Hill was the shooter. Investigator Cheek testified that the statement that in the statement that Ms. Hill made she said that Jaquez does have a temper and would do anything to protect her. Investigator Cheek also said that they have witnesses statements that they heard Joi Hill say after the incident while she was in the car that “she hoped Jaquez didn’t kill him”. Cheek also said they have witness statements that Jaquez did in fact show up and they did see a gun in his hand.
Joi Hill’s attorney Shaun Kent asked Investigator Cheek if he was aware that there are three different warrants. Cheek stated that he was aware. Mr. Kent then asked about the murder warrant ending in 167, that the warrant was dated June 6th, 2021. “Have you had a chance to read this warrant?” Mr. Kent asked Inv. Cheek. “I have” Cheek responded. Mr. Kent then stated, “so you agree with me and what you just testified that this warrant is not ethical?” Prosecutor Darla Pierce then objected and explained the State does believe that the first warrant had probable cause. However, she admitted that the state did go back and amends it as shown in Warrant 176, showing that the new warrant was an amendment and an attachment to the first warrant and that it did have probable cause and she was unsure as to Mr. Kent going into the question of the first warrant when they are to be read together.
Mr. Kent explained that it was a preliminary hearing and he has the right to question all of the warrants. “To try to stop me about asking questions about these warrants in a preliminary hearing, these are these warrants on the docket, it’s not like they dismissed one.” Pierce then interrupted “ and we agree with that we are just saying two of the warrants are to be read together they are not entirely separate, one amends the other.”
“Your honor that actually makes no legal logical sense, you can’t read two warrants together if there is an amendment warrant that is a separate warrant” stated Kent. “ They have three separate warrants on the docket, I am allowed to ask about them, if the State wants to hide something they are free to do it but I have to ask questions about three separate warrants, there are two separate murder charges, it’s not like they have one warrant.”
Judge Johnson stated there are three separate warrants with one being an amended warrant to the first so they should be read together. Mr. Kent asked for the first warrant to just be dismissed since “ we are not allowed to ask questions or talk about it.” The state said after the indictment they will be dismissing the first warrant. Kent then asked Investigator Cheek “before there was an amended warrant, you all got a warrant for murder, fair?” Cheek agreed. “in that warrant, you specifically alleged that Joi Hill fired shots into the victim’s body, is that fair?” “Yes,” Cheek replied.
Kent- “That’s not true today, correct?”
Kent- “So before the amended warrant, no matter what the state says, there was an incorrect warrant that arrested Ms. Hill, fair”
Cheek looks over at Prosecutor Pierce to which Kent responds “Don’t look at her for an answer she can’t give it to you, look at me, is that fair?”
Cheek- “yes sir”
Cheek testified that as of today there are no witnesses to the pulling of the trigger. There are however multiple witnesses to the altercation. Cheek also stated that there are witnesses that they heard Joi Hill tell her son to “bring my gun”.
Public Defendant Scott Robinson, who is representing Jaquez Hill then questioned Investigator Cheek on-scene photographs.
Robinson- “My question specifically is did you all stand where the witnesses said they were standing and photograph the scene or the area where the altercation took place?”
Cheek- “No sir”
Robinson then wanted to know about the argument and the victim's demeanor during the argument.
Robinson- “Were there any surveillance cameras on the outside of the building or across the street or anything?”
Cheek – “No sir”
Robinson- “Do you all have any cell phone camera footage from anyone that may have been uploaded to Youtube or Facebook or whatever they do?”
Cheek- “No sir no one has brought any to us.”
Robinson- “Other than the victim's dead body, do you have any other physical evidence in the case.”
Cheek- “We have shell casings from the scene, they have been sent to SLED.”
The casings have been sent for DNA and finger analysis.
Mr. Hill did take a polygraph and it did show deception.
Cheek then testified that all the witnesses have stated that they heard Ms. Hill call Mr. Hill and ask her to bring a gun and witnesses saw a gun in Mr. Hill’s hand
Kent then explained that they were having the preliminary hearing to show probable cause.
Kent- “Probable cause is not complicated, it is more than a mere suspicion, it’s more than a hunch if you will, it’s definitely more than just a suspicion that a suspect possibly committed a crime, it’s a higher threshold and a higher burden which is why we have these preliminary hearings. Mr. Robinson said it best and so did Investigator Cheek, it’s definitely more than a theory.” “What the State of South Carolina has presented to you is their theory, their assumption, their hunch of what potentially happened on June 6th,2021, that in and of itself is not enough to charge Ms. Hill and allow this case to go in front of a grand jury and be indicted, what is very concerning to me is that when I started asking about the first warrant The State’s argument was that this warrant is subsumed in the other warrant, I‘m sorry that’s just not true, they have presented for you two different charges of murder, they can say what they want but they are two charges of murder. So let’s start with the first one, let me make this clear, if you choose to bound these cases over they can present both of these murder warrants to the grand jury. To say one is subsumed by the other is just not true because if you bound these over what you would be doing is bounding over each murder charge to the Grand Jury for the Grand Jury to make a determination if they should indict. That’s what's scary. So, when the State says ‘ oh your honor these are consumed under each warrant’, these are separate warrants, separate warrant numbers and if you bound them over both of them could be and can be presented in front of the Grand Jury so we have to ask questions about the warrants, so I am a little scared when the State says ‘Oh please don’t ask for warrants, that’s just not important.' It is incredibly important! Why? Because the first warrant simply has no evidence in it at all and what it suggests is completely untrue. The first warrant 0166 specifically which is Joi Hill in this warrant, cause the death of the victim, Bryant Bowman, by firing multiple gunshots into his body after a verbal altercation. There is no other way to read this the State of South Carolina has at a preliminary hearing today presented this warrant and said’ Judge we want you to decide if Joi Hill did this’. That’s it! So it's our motion first that this charge must be dismissed - whether they want to assume it or not is on them - but this cannot factually go forth. The officer even specifically said this is not accurate. Let’s go with a very simple [dictionary] or we can go with Google, for the definition of amended. Amended means to change, so they are saying we put forth an amended warrant because we know this warrant is not accurate. So if this warrant is not accurate, then we can’t go forward with it. So this whole ‘they go on top of each other' is not accurate. 0166 must be dismissed and I think the State knows it, they can’t go forward with it or they wouldn’t have amended it in the first place. The second warrant 0176, all that is is a theory; the State of South Carolina has offered a theory. The theory quite simply is Joi Hill got in an argument with an individual, when she got in this argument, she picked up her phone called her son, according to them, and told her son to come over here. It doesn’t say she called her son and told him to kill somebody, just go get a gun. According to the State the son showed up and we don’t know what happened at that point in time, but according to the state, he must have killed him. You can’t get a past directive verdict on a child with that evidence. What we need when we have a witness statement is something very simple called corroboration and they know that there is no corroboration. What they are doing again is relying on fear, someone is dead, this person ran from the scene so it must be them. I don’t know what Ms. Hill said to the officers, but I have talked to her specifically on the differences in murders and accessory before and accessory after and she does have a point, this ain’t no murder. I don’t even know if it is accessory after the fact but based upon what they have right now there is no charge, […] Ms. Hill. They can not testify about who killed anybody, so if you cant testify and make a definitive fact about who caused the death of Mr. Bowman (inaudible).
Finally, your honor, let’s take everything the State of South Carolina is saying is true, even though I disagree with all of it because I don’t think they have any proof. But let’s [say] everything happened. Let’s say an individual got in an argument with someone, picked up the phone, called their son, said bring a gun [and] come over here. That crime is not murder. Even if everything they said today was true. That is not a murder. So our motion, very simply, your Honor, is pretty clear and I am happy the state saw fit to dismiss the charge of possession of a weapon because they know she didn’t possess a weapon and couldn’t be charged with that; and if they know that, they must also know that the warrant ending in 0166 is not proper. The warrant ending in 0176 has no probable cause and has no indicia of reliability whatsoever and it is pretty scary they were able to get these warrants out. Imagine this if this is allowed to go forward what the State of South Carolina is able to do is go into the community and say we are going to arrest you with a warrant with murder. Let’s say your bond is denied. Well we know it’s not a murder but her bond is denied so now we can keep her in jail so we can continue to investigate the case and now we are given an amended warrant for assault and battery but the murder bond was already denied so we can’t get you in front of a Grand Jury or general sessions for months and months and months. That is what is so scary about this case and why it has so much attention because Investigator Cheek, who I have known for a long time and think he is an honest and very good investigator, has said, they are still investigating. Why are they still investigating? Because they don’t know what happened?"
Kent ended his motion.
Robinson – "I would move to dismiss all three warrants against Mr. Hill. You heard me at the end of my questioning very specifically as I could to get Investigator Cheek to enumerate what they believe was the probable cause for these warrants. Assuming it is all true there is an argument between Joi Hill and Bryant Bowman, Joi calls Jaques [and] says to bring a gun. Jaquez brings a gun, shots are fired and Bryant Bowman is dead. That is the extent of the evidence in this case. They don’t have a gun to determine if we assume it is true. If Mr. Hill had the murder weapon there are zero witnesses in this case that can say they saw Mr. Hill commit a crime, other than perhaps the crime of unlawful carrying of a pistol which he has not been charged with. The State has a theory which they are trying to bolster with a bad temper, [and] protective son. There is no evidence that Mr. Hill said anything to the victim, made any threats toward the victim, or was in any way 'out of the way' to the victim. [The] only evidence we have in this case is that Mr. Hill had a gun and was there, the only crime that is is unlawful carrying which he has not been charged with. The rest that Mr. Kent has stated is a theory. Quite frankly when I say the state I mean someone, not Mrs. Pierce, not investigator Cheek but someone with the State [who] sought an amended warrant on what was represented at a bond hearing on what was incriminating evidence derived from Ms. Hill and Ms. Lawkins. When the court was told that they specifically said Jaquez did the shooting, we have found out today that is a lie. It is a lie. It was said in court, on the transcript, it wasn’t in testimony but Mrs. Pierce said it. She had not seen the evidence and was relying on a representation presented to her by someone else but that was the evidence presented to Judge Cothran at the bond hearing and we now found out today that [it] is a lie. After cross-examination, it is clear the State has near presence and a theory or a deduction that it must have been Mr. Hill because he had a gun, I would wager to say your honor that there would have been a number of other people in attendance that night that had a gun and none of them have been charged with murder. There is no evidence that Mr. Hill has committed any crime [...], other than unlawful carrying of a pistol, and he has not been charged with that. There is no competent evidence to sustain probable cause in this case for murder or possession of a weapon during a violent crime because the true definition of possession of a weapon during a violent crime in laymen’s terms is – the weapon would have to had been used in some way to the furtherance of a crime. They do not have the weapon and can not prove that that particular weapon is the murder weapon. That is their theory. There is no way they can prove that and they have admitted that they have fragments and cant tell you, at least I don’t think they can link them to a weapon. They have shell casings, [but] they have no evidence, even with DNA and fingertips, [that] can prove they came from the gun that killed Mr. Bowman. It just doesn't add up. It is theories and that is not enough to prove probable cause in a case of this magnitude so based on that on the State’s admission and their definition of what is probable cause we ask your Honor that all three charges be dismissed [along with] all three warrants against Mr. Hill."
Pierce- Your Honor the state would ask that you find probable cause and send all five warrants, three for Jaquez Hill and two for Joi Hill to General Sessions. Your Honor at the time of the arrests witnesses' statements were very clear. Joi Hill got into an argument with Bryant Bowman, it became heated. Witnesses instated that Joi Hill called Jaquez Hill and said bring me my gun. By her own admission, she knew when she made that phone call that Jaquez Hill [would] do anything he can to protect his mother. She knew what she was doing when she made that phone call. They were having an argument, she called and asked that a gun be brought to an argument. The hand of one is the hand of all is the State’s theory. She put everything in place when she called and asked for the gun to be bought knowing he had a short temper and was hot-headed. Witnesses say they saw the gun in his hand. He comes up. He is over there with his mama and Shania Larkins and the deceased. Shots are fired. Mr. Bowman is on the ground dying, he is dead. Jaquez fleas with the gun in his hand going one way. Joi and Shania flee in another direction. Your Honor that is evidence [and] that is probable cause. Circumstantial evidence is evidence. As far as possession of the weapon, we have witnesses that saw him with a weapon. Shots were fired [and] the gun was still in his hands when he turned and ran. Your honor, we do believe that there is probable cause and we ask that you do send it to General Sessions to be indicted. And once it is indicted, we will look at the warrants and move forward on the second set of warrants. That will happen [..] in [the] September term of the Grand Jury.
Judge Johnson ruled to send the cases to General Sessions.