Heard October 13, 2015
Appeal From Greenville County. G. Edward Welmaker, Trial Court Judge, D. Garrison Hill, Post-Conviction Relief Judge. Appellate Case No. 2012-212398.
Appellate Defender Susan Barber Hackett, of Columbia, for Petitioner.
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Karen Christine Ratigan, both of Columbia, for Respondent.
GEATHERS, J. SHORT and MCDONALD, JJ., concur.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI
Jomer Hill (Petitioner) appeals the denial of post-conviction relief (PCR), arguing the PCR court erred in declining to find appellate counsel ineffective for failing to raise a directed verdict issue on appeal. We affirm.
In December of 2000, Kenneth Goldsmith and Clifton " Trey" Brown (Trey) were shot at a " liquor house" where locals regularly visited to buy drugs, drink alcohol, gamble, and socialize. Goldsmith died at the scene and Trey was transported to a hospital where he later died. The case became a cold case when investigators were unable to identify a suspect. Officers sought to reopen the case by seeking additional evidence and interviewing new witnesses. The officers observed some hesitancy in the community members' willingness to give information, stemming from their fear of Lamont " Mont" Brown (Brown), a known drug dealer and leader of a large drug enterprise. Of his own volition, Timothy Paden contacted investigators and alleged Petitioner confessed to the crimes. Paden offered to wear a wire and subsequently recorded Petitioner's confession. Thereafter, in 2005, a grand jury indicted Petitioner for the murders, and he proceeded to trial.
Trial testimony revealed that the liquor house was actually Goldsmith's residence and he received a portion of gambling proceeds generated at the home. Goldsmith gave Trey a key to the home and allowed him to operate the liquor house because of their friendship. Trey and Petitioner were reputed drug dealers and sold drugs for Brown from the liquor house; moreover, it was Petitioner who introduced Trey to Brown and the organization. One former member of the organization testified that the individual who introduces a new potential drug dealer to Brown becomes responsible for the actions of the person whom he brought into the organization. This former member further explained Brown ordered him to kill the former member's own cousin because the cousin " snitched" and Brown " don't like no snitches."
Witnesses testified that just prior to his death,
Trey mentioned he had " to pay some bills" to Brown and Brown was " sweating"
him for money. Also, Brown testified that a
few days prior to the murders, Brown warned Petitioner that he " was getting
tired of him, you know, not making his payments on time" and that he " was going
to be kicked out of the [drug organization] . . . if he didn't get his stuff
together and start coming to bring his money in on time like Trey was." Further,
Brown testified that prior to his death, Trey was " moving up" in the
organization because he began to do " extra stuff" for Brown such as
transporting drugs. In contrast, Petitioner was " on his way down, way down by
On the night before the crimes, several individuals were gambling and socializing at the liquor house, including Trey, Petitioner, and Goldsmith. At some point, Brown arrived and stood outside looking for Trey and Petitioner, expecting payment from both of them for drugs. According to Brown, both men informed him they would give him the money later that evening; however, neither returned with the money. Several witnesses testified they observed Brown and Trey argue about money because Brown wanted the money Trey owed him. One witness observed Trey and Brown have a conversation that was " probably serious because they didn't want anybody to hear their discussion." Another witness observed Trey go outside of the liquor house to give Brown money and Brown responded " that ain't right . . . I want it all." During the argument, Trey cursed at Brown, stated " that's my half," and ran back into the liquor house. Once back inside, Trey spoke with Petitioner; Petitioner then went outside to speak with Brown.
Trey's girlfriend testified that on the morning of the crimes, Trey's pager went off at around 9:50 a.m. and he went upstairs to return the call. Phone records indicate that on that morning, Petitioner paged Trey at 9:39 a.m. and Trey placed a call to Petitioner five minutes later--the last recorded outgoing call on Trey's phone. After the call, Trey hurriedly grabbed a large sum of money and left the home. Trey's girlfriend testified Trey left to go to the liquor house. On cross-examination, however, she admitted she " didn't know for sure" if Trey went to the liquor house, " but that was his usual hangout."
According to the mother of Petitioner's child, sometime before noon on the morning of the crimes, while she was at Petitioner's home, Petitioner ran into the home, sweating and out of breath. He changed clothes, and as she was leaving, asked her to throw away a black trash bag for him. He cautioned her to make sure she did not throw the bag away at her house. She followed his directions without looking inside the bag.
At around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. on the evening of the murders, investigators arrived at the crime scene and did not find any evidence of forced entry. Both Goldsmith and Trey were discovered in the same bedroom of the home. Goldsmith suffered two gunshot wounds to the chest, one being a rapidly fatal wound. Trey suffered a gunshot wound to the back of the skull. An expert opined both Goldsmith and Trey remained in the liquor house for approximately seven or eight hours before they were discovered. Accordingly, the pathologist opined they were shot between 9:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. An officer testified ballistic fingerprints from the ...