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State v. Nesbitt

Supreme Court of South Carolina

January 14, 2015

The State, Respondent,
v.
Charvus Tarrel Nesbitt, Appellant

Heard November 19, 2014.

Appeal From Spartanburg County Roger L. Couch, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2012-212222.

Kenneth Philip Shabel, of Campbell & Shabel, LLC, of Spartanburg, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Senior Assistant Attorney General W. Edgar Salter, III, all of Columbia and Solicitor Barry Joe Barnette, of Spartanburg, for Respondent.

CHIEF JUSTICE TOAL, BEATTY, HEARN, JJ. and Acting Justice James E. Moore, concur. PLEICONES, J., concurring in result only.

OPINION

Page 68

[411 S.C. 196] TOAL, CHIEF JUSTICE:

Charvus Nesbitt (Appellant) appeals the circuit court's finding that he entered knowing and voluntary Alford [1] pleas as to three of four charges listed in a negotiated plea agreement. On appeal, Appellant argues that his negotiated plea agreement was a " package deal," and that because his plea for one of the charges was invalid, his pleas for the remaining three charges were likewise invalid. We affirm as modified.

Facts/Procedural Background

On December 7, 2010, Appellant and three co-conspirators arranged to purchase marijuana from Daniel Landrum (the victim) at the victim's mobile home, intending instead to rob the victim. While inside the mobile home, Appellant shot the victim eight times, killing him, and one of the bullets hit the victim's sister in the neck. The police arrested Appellant and his co-conspirators, and a grand jury subsequently indicted Appellant for murder, possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, attempted murder, and attempted armed robbery.

Throughout the pre-trial proceedings, Appellant consistently maintained that one of his co-conspirators shot the victim, and that Appellant was merely present during the shooting. Nonetheless, Appellant elected to enter an Alford plea.[2]

During the plea colloquy, the State informed the circuit court that there were three indictments pending against Appellant, including a two-count indictment for murder and possession of a firearm during a violent crime. The State [411 S.C. 197] listed the four crimes covered in the indictments and informed the circuit court that Appellant and the State negotiated the plea in exchange for the State's recommendation of a forty-year sentence. Appellant's attorney acknowledged that the State correctly summarized the pending charges and negotiated sentence.

However, at various points in the hearing, the circuit court incorrectly stated that Appellant was before the court on three charges. Omitting the firearm charge entirely, the court outlined the possible sentences for murder, attempted murder, and attempted armed robbery, and asked Appellant if he understood those potential sentences.[3] The circuit court also told Appellant that the court had the right to accept or reject the plea negotiations and the sentencing recommendation, and informed Appellant that, if the court did not accept the negotiations, Appellant could withdraw his plea.

The circuit court then asked Appellant whether he was satisfied with his attorney's representation; whether he pled no contest; whether he entered the plea of his own free will; and whether he understood the constitutional rights he was giving up by pleading no contest, including the right to remain silent and the right to a jury trial. Appellant answered yes to each of the questions. The circuit court also asked whether anyone had promised Appellant anything or threatened him to acquire his guilty plea, and whether Appellant was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Appellant answered no to both of the questions.

At the conclusion of its discussion with Appellant, the circuit court found that Appellant entered his pleas freely and voluntarily. Therefore, the court accepted the negotiated sentence, and sentenced Appellant to forty years' imprisonment for murder, thirty years' ...


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