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State v. Reaves

Supreme Court of South Carolina

September 2, 2015

The State, Respondent,
Shawn Reaves, Petitioner

Heard May 6, 2015.

Appeal from Marion County William H. Seals, Jr., Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2014-000813.

Appellate Defender LaNelle C. DuRant, of Columbia, for Petitioner.

Attorney General Alan M. Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Mark R. Farthing, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

TOAL, C.J., BEATTY and KITTREDGE, JJ., concur. PLEICONES, J., concurring in a separate opinion.


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Shawn Reaves was convicted of voluntary manslaughter after the shooting death of Keshawn Applewhite. He now argues that deficiencies in the police investigation--including the loss of potentially exculpatory evidence and the failure to ascertain the identity of a second shooter--deprived him of a fair trial, and delays occasioned by the State's faulty investigation deprived him of the right to a speedy trial. Reaves asks the indictment be dismissed. We disagree and therefore affirm.


Police responded to a call about a fight in progress in Marion. On their way to the scene, the officers were notified that shots had been fired. When they arrived, officers found Applewhite slumped inside the rear passenger seat of a white Crown Victoria with apparent gunshot wounds. Applewhite [414 S.C. 122] was transported to the hospital, but later died as a result of his injuries.

An autopsy revealed that Applewhite had been shot five times. Three of the bullets passed through his body. Another bullet entered and remained lodged in Applewhite's

Page 215

shoulder. The fifth bullet, which was determined to be the fatal one, entered Applewhite's upper back, struck his lung, aorta, and liver, and ultimately stopped in his colon. A South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) analyst determined the fatal bullet was a .38 or .357 caliber likely fired from a revolver, and the shot lodged in his shoulder was a 9mm caliber likely fired from a semiautomatic pistol. Accordingly, the analyst concluded the two shots were fired from different guns.

As the police investigation progressed, witnesses identified sixteen-year-old Reaves as one of the shooters. Police obtained a warrant for Reaves' arrest, and he was apprehended in Philadelphia in May of 2007, where he had fled after the shooting. Reaves was transported back to South Carolina and charged with murder and assault and battery with intent to kill. After more than three years had passed while incarcerated, Reaves made a speedy trial motion in August of 2010. Reaves' case was called for trial later that same month.

During the first day of Reaves' trial, an eyewitness to the shooting, Jackie McGill, and multiple police officers testified. After the jury was excused for the day, defense counsel had the opportunity to review a number of documents in the investigator's file which were previously unknown to either party. Among these documents was a signed statement from a hearsay witness saying that Jeremy Vereen, not Reaves, was the shooter who fired the fatal bullet. Also among the materials was a handwritten note from the lead investigator in the case indicating that Vereen may have been the second shooter. Reaves moved for a mistrial based on the possible exculpatory value the documents presented, and because he had not been provided them pursuant to his request for disclosure under Rule 5, SCRCrimP. The State agreed a mistrial was appropriate. The trial judge granted a mistrial.

Prior to his second trial, Reaves moved for dismissal of the indictment on due process grounds. Reaves also made a [414 S.C. 123] motion to dismiss the case because his right to a speedy trial had been violated. Both motions were denied.

At the second trial, McGill again testified about the shooting. McGill stated he and Applewhite, along with Applewhite's cousin, Karen Graves, and McGill's friend, Travis Lane, drove together to see Applewhite's former girlfriend, Joemilla Wilson. Applewhite and Wilson had been living together in Atlanta as recently as a month before the shooting. However, Wilson was then at the house of her new boyfriend, Deshawn Bellamy.

According to McGill, Applewhite called Wilson out of the house to talk and the two started walking down the street, arguing. They soon started fist-fighting, and Applewhite threw Wilson to the ground. After McGill broke up the fight and put Applewhite back in the car, Wilson came over and spit on Applewhite through an open window. Applewhite then got back out of the car and chased after Wilson, who retreated to the porch of the house. Applewhite followed, but was intercepted by Reaves, who met him at the bottom of the porch steps. It was at this point that Reaves shot Applewhite.

McGill's testimony was corroborated by Wilson, who stated she saw Reaves fire a revolver at Applewhite. Additionally, the initial lead investigator in the case, Captain Jim Gray, testified to his investigation of the shooting and the second lead investigator, Lieutenant Farmer Blue, who took over after Captain Gray became ill, testified about his identification of Reaves as the shooter. This was Lt. Blue's first murder investigation, and he conceded " there would have been a lot of other things I would have done different (sic) in the case."

Over the course of the trial, it became clear there were serious problems with the investigation into Applewhite's death. The crime scene had not been properly sealed, and the crime scene log of people entering and exiting the area was not accurately maintained.[1] A number of pieces of physical ...

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