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Jamison v. Cohen

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

September 30, 2016

Matthew Jamison, #267844, Petitioner,
v.
Levern Cohen, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Margaret B. Seymour, Senior United States District Judge

         Petitioner Matthew Jamison is an inmate in custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Petitioner currently is housed at the Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, South Carolina. Petitioner, proceeding pro se, filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus on July 22, 2015, alleging that he is being detained unlawfully. See 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was assaulted by Jamie Jackson, also known as “Jig, ” along with some of Jig's friends, on May 20, 2000. Jig fired at Petitioner as Petitioner fled the scene. On May 23, 2000, Jig and his friends assaulted Petitioner's sister and, during the incident, hit Petitioner's daughter in the face. On June 11, 2000, Petitioner was attending an after-party outside of the National Guard Armory in Columbia, South Carolina, when he was approached by Jig and a number of his cohorts. Petitioner opened fire, and as a result shot and killed a fifteen-year-old youth. Petitioner was indicted for murder.

         On August 27, 2001, Petitioner, represented by John D. Delgado, Esquire, appeared before the Honorable L. Casey Manning, where he entered a negotiated plea of voluntary manslaughter. At the plea hearing, Judge Manning conducted a thorough colloquy with Petitioner. Among other things, Judge Manning stated:

THE COURT: You're pleading to voluntary manslaughter?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: The allegation I just read to you would be for murder. But you're not pleading to murder. But that's what it says. You understand that. You shot him; he died. They're taking out the malice and just saying that you - it's a voluntary manslaughter plea.
Do you understand all that?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Okay.
And that's what you want to plead guilty to, really shooting Mr. Dreher?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: All right.
You realize, Mr. Jamison, that by pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter that you can go to jail for thirty (30) years?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Knowing then, sir, that you can go to prison for thirty (30) years by pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter, do you still want to plead guilty to it?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: All right.
. . . I'm not saying that I will, but you need to realize that the thirty(30) years that you're facing on this voluntary manslaughter, I could run that consecutive to the eight (8) years you're currently serving.
Do you understand that?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
Now, realizing, Mr. Jamison, that when you plead guilty, you admit the truth of the allegation contained in this indictment against you. You're saying that I had a gun and I shot Mr. Dreher and he died.
You understand that?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: All right.
I tell you that, sir, because you may have some defenses to this charge, Mr. Jamison. Of course, I have no way of knowing that, but you need to realize that by pleading guilty here today, you give up any defenses you might have.
Do you understand that, sir?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: All right.
Now, Mr. Jamison, I'll ask you, once again, did you commit this offense?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.
THE COURT: Now, Mr. Jamison, has anyone promised you anything or held out any hope of reward in order to get you to plead guilty?
THE DEFENDANT: No, sir.
THE COURT: Has anyone threatened you or used force to get you to plead guilty?
THE DEFENDANT: No, sir.
THE COURT: Has anyone used any pressure or intimidation to cause you plead guilty?
So, once again, and finally, Mr. Jamison, you're pleading guilty to Indictment Number 2000-53234 because on June the 11th, 2000, you shot one Alton Jarod Dreher, who died as a result thereof?
THE DEFENDANT: Yes, sir.

ECF No. 19-8, 12-23.

         Petitioner appeared before Judge Manning on August 28, 2001 for sentencing. The solicitor recounted the facts as follows:

The victim, 15-year-old Alton Dreher, was just really at the wrong place and hanging behind the wrong people at the wrong time which cost him his life. I just need to give you some very brief information as to why, background information, as to why this is a manslaughter case.
Three weeks before this shooting, your honor, the defendant was at his house with his daughter and a girlfriend or the mother of the daughter. A number of individuals whose nicknames are “Jig”, “Little Thee”, “Fax”, “Butter”, they went to the defendant's house. They beat him up; they pistol-whipped him; they shot at him. About two or three days after that accident, those same individuals I just mentioned smacked the defendant's sister. Warrants were obtained for those individuals for what they had done to the defendant's sister.
The importance of that is that when we jump forward to June the 11th, the date of this incident, Alton, the victim, was at a party at the Armory that night. It was a Saturday night. Also at the party were those individuals I just mentioned: “Jig”, “Butter”, “Little Thee”. . . .
The defendant - the victim Alton really didn't even know these individuals but for the fact that one of them is his cousin. It's our understanding, he just went up to them to talk to them briefly and then he was going off with his girlfriend. You know, wasn't really even hanging out with them, but unfortunately the one time he went to talk with them was when Mr. Jamison, the defendant, saw those individuals, pulled out a gun, a .38, and began firing into the crowd at those individuals. One of the bullets struck Alton right on the right side. It went through a number of his organs and he died right there at the scene.
. . . One of the other tragic parts of this case was that nobody even came forward. Of the hundreds of people at that party, not one was willing to give the police a statement that night as to what they saw and heard.
. . . Investigator Gaymon come there that night and he took a statement from the defendant, who really pretty much admitted everything I've told the court today.

Id. at 25-28.

         Petitioner's counsel then addressed the court:

[The defendant] had no individual animus against Alton Dreher. Alton was standing with a group of folks that had been engaged with Matthew some time in the past and that night as well and he fired towards that crowd because he thought that they were coming at him and he was coming at them.
And he understands the aspect we know in the law as transferred intent. It was not a self-defense. It may have been a very imperfect self-defense. But those are the issues that we would have brought forward. But he had no individual animus. He had no reason. Didn't even know this boy. It was a shot at a crowd of people in a very crowded environment in which this young man was struck and killed and died as a result.

Id. at 34-35.

         Judge Manning sentenced Petitioner to incarceration for a period of twenty years. Petitioner did not file a direct appeal.

         On June 24, 2002, Petitioner filed an application for post-conviction relief (PCR) in which he alleged ineffective assistance of counsel. On April 27, 2005, Petitioner, represented by counsel, appeared before the Honorable G. Thomas Cooper on his PCR application. The court heard testimony of Mr. Delgado. Mr. Delgado recounted his conversations with Petitioner prior to the plea hearing. He stated, among other things:

         I don't think that the facts were murder. They were a case of voluntary manslaughter. There was an issue of transferred intent. This involved a shooting at a dance out at the National Guard Armory on Bluff Road. Matthew had been put upon by some fellows, more than one, some incident at his home some weeks before. He ran into those fellows that same night. His statement was that they came at me and I came at them. And he had a gun and fired it. There was an issue of whether or not - the young man who was killed was a 15-year-old boy - whether or not the issue of transferred intent was there.

I tried to explain that to Matthew, that the intent to kill the other fellow who he was trying to kill and his killing a young boy would not have been thought of very highly by a jury. Seeing all that, I thought a manslaughter charge, a manslaughter conviction was very imminent if we got around the murder. You never know how that goes. And the 20 years weren't to Matthew's liking, but it sure is a difference better than 30 to life.
It would have been a significant risk of conviction of manslaughter. And knowing the way that may have played out, I think the Court could have sentenced him easily then to 30 years on that charge alone. A 20-year guilty plea was a ...

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