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Briscoe v. Cartledge

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

October 31, 2016

Steven C. Briscoe, Petitioner,
Warden Leroy Cartledge, Respondent.


          Margaret B. Seymour Senior United States District Judge.

         Petitioner Steven C. Briscoe is an inmate in custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections. Petitioner currently is housed at Ridgeland Correctional Institution in Ridgeland, South Carolina. On June 30, 2015, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254.

         I. FACTS

         On July 3, 2003, Petitioner and a friend, Jasson Turner, traveled from Danville, Virginia, to the Grover area of Dorchester County, South Carolina, for the purpose of selling cocaine to an acquaintance of Turner's. ECF No. 14-1, 155-62. They traveled to South Carolina in a gold Pontiac Grand Am belonging to Petitioner's mother. Id. at 162. Petitioner and Turner arrived at Ryan North's house about 9:00 p.m., and met up with Ryan North; his brother, Travis North; and Anthony Folk. The group drove to Lanesha Green's house to distribute the cocaine. At the house were Jermaine Cusack, Mark Cook, Johnny Cobb, Green, and Clay Singleton. Eventually Petitioner and Turner sat down in a living room area to package the cocaine for sale and count money. Id. at 176; 280, 385. Mark Cook came into the room, snatched one of the bags of cocaine, and tried to run out the door with it. Id. at 177, 281, 385. Petitioner immediately pulled a gun and shot Cook five times, killing him. Id. at 177, 281, 386.

         Petitioner was indicted for murder on October 24, 2005. ECF No. 14-4, 139.

         Petitioner, represented by Kevin Kearse, Esquire, appeared before the Honorable Deandra L. Jefferson on October 31, 2005, to pick a jury and proceed to trial. After the solicitor and counsel for Petitioner made their peremptory strikes, trial counsel raised an issue pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986) (holding that racial discrimination in jury selection offends the equal protection clause). Trial counsel argued that the solicitor had impermissibly stricken a Native American male and a black female. ECF No. 14-1, 31. The solicitor stated that he had stricken the Native American male because he lived in a close-knit Native American community in the St. George, South Carolina, area. According to the solicitor, there had been an unpopular case in that area that could have caused this juror to feel resentment toward the solicitor's office. The solicitor also asserted that he had stricken the black female because she worked at the Charleston County Detention Center with inmates who have substance abuse issues, and the solicitor could not determine whether she would be favorable or unfavorable to the state's case. The trial judge ruled:

The striking party has been allowed to provide its neutral reasons for the strikes that have been exercised.
The court would find that the explanations given are completely plausible, and within the range of what would be contemplated by someone similarly situated striking a jury. Based on the totality of the facts and circumstances of the record the court would find that the reasons given are not pretextural [sic], nor have they been race - nor have they been motivated by race. I would find that the explanations given by the solicitor are race neutral and that the defendant in this case has failed to meet his burden of challenging the, these jurors having been seated. He has not provided any evidence that the explanations given have been pretextural [sic] and that is looking at each individual explanation as well as the totality of the facts and circumstances of this record. Therefore, the motion is denied.

Id. at 31-34.

         The solicitor called as witnesses Green, Turner, Ryan North, Travis North, Folk, and Cusack, all of whom testified to their recollections of the night of July 3, 2003, including Petitioner's presence at the scene; his car with Virginia license plates; the bagging of cocaine in the living room; and the shooting. Id. at 154-211 (Turner); 218-59 (Green); 268-325 (Ryan North); 329-51 (Folk); 354-76 (Cusack); 379-420 (Travis North). Ryan North and Travis North testified that they were able to identify Petitioner from a photographic line-up. Id. at 290-91 (Ryan North); 396-98.

         Dr. Joel Steven Sexton, Director of Pathology at Newberry, South Carolina, testified that he examined the body of Cook and determined that he had been shot five times in the right side of his body. Three of the bullets passed through his right upper arm and into his chest. One of the bullets entered the chest cavity and struck Cook's heart and both lungs, and the other two were located in the subcutaneous tissue between the ribs and the skin when they were recovered. A fourth bullet entered his right side near his waist and was recovered from his left leg. A fifth bullet entered Cook's right back and perforated the intestines at the mesentery. ECF No. 14-1, 431, 434.

         The solicitor called Earl Vincent Asbell, Jr., a lieutenant at the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, to the stand. Asbell testified that he arrived at the scene shortly after midnight on the morning of July 4, 2003. He took photographs as he arrived on the premises and as he entered the house. Id. at 458-60. He testified there was a trail of blood leading from the hallway right at the front door leading into a bedroom where a body was lying on the floor to the right. Id. at 460. Asbell noted that there had been blood splatter at the scene, and explained:

A. When there's an injury to the body, let's say for instance, a gun shot wound, when the bullet enters the body and as it exits it takes tissue and blood with it. Depending on if it's bare skin, a lot of times you'd have what we call a back spatter, which is usually a lot less. When you're dealing with a gun shot wound you're dealing with blood spatter in excess of a hundred feet per second, so usually the blood spatter is less than one millimeter when you're dealing with a gun shot wound, whereas in a beating it would be anywhere from one to three millimeters.
Q. Okay. And you've had training in blood spatter analysis?
A. My first session with it was in nineteen ninety-two, at I.P.T.M., I was introduced to different patterns at that class, it was a crime scene technician's work shop. Then in nineteen ninety-four I attended basic blood spatter. In nineteen ninety-seven I attended advanced blood spatter course. In the basic class we created our own blood spatter at that time, we had a lift where we dropped it from different heights, we took objects with a sponge on it and hammers, wrenches, just different items, and we beat it, and when we did we had light paper surrounding it so we could see what the pattern was on that. And then, later on that week we went into mock crime scenes. Now, when I went back for the advanced blood spatter course they had mock scenes, we had domestic blood spatter, we had armed robberies with shootings involved, and beatings, and we worked different crime scenes at that time, learning how to document the blood spatter.

Id. at 465-66.

         Asbell went on to describe the blood spatter on the door as some high velocity blood spatter. Id. at 466-67. Asbell also noted that there was a drop pattern on the floor where the victim had walked toward the bedroom after he was shot. Id. at 470. Asbell explained:

A. When blood is in motion and when it hits the floor, a lot of it depends on the texture of the surface. If you had a smooth surface it would be a lot more rounder and a lot more smoother, but there was some, this floor was not exactly really smooth, but the satellite spatter is what we call when blood hits in the direction that it's going it cases off little satellite spatters, and it shows the direction in which the blood is traveling.
Q. And which direction was that in this case?
A. It was going from the front door into the bedroom where the body was.
Q. Okay. And how was that blood - where was that blood coming from?
A. I would assume it was coming from the wound on the deceased as he was walking into the bedroom there.
Q. As if he's dripping blood -
A. Yes, sir.
Q. - going in there?
A. Yes, it's not, it wasn't being case off or anything, it was just dripping straight down as he was walking in.

Id. at 471-72.

         Vello Paavel of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division testified regarding his analysis of the bullets recovered from the scene of the shooting. Paavel determined that the bullets were consistent with bullets found in ten millimeter automatic, or forty Smith and Wesson caliber cartridges. Id. at 499. Paavel testified that the bullets were most likely fired from a Glock. Id. at 500-01. William Henry Chaney of the Danville, Virginia Police Department testified that on January 7, 2003, he had contact with Petitioner with respect to an accidental discharge of a Glock ten millimeter handgun. ECF No. 14-2, 152. Mark Kelly of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in the Charleston, South Carolina, field office testified that the Glock that had been in Petitioner's possession in Danville had been sold in 2001 to Helen Coles, Petitioner's mother. Id. at 167.

         Helen Briscoe Cole testified that she had purchased the Glock for protection because at the time she was working at night. Id. at 202. She testified that she had turned the weapon over to Petitioner in January 2003 for him to clean it. Id. at 204. Cole stated that she retrieved the Glock after Petitioner accidentally discharged it, and that she subsequently used it as collateral for a loan. Id. at 204-05. According to Cole, the weapon was never returned to her. Id. at 205. Cole testified that she owned a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am, but that she did not allow Petitioner to drive it. Id. at 206-08. Cole testified that she had driven her vehicle to the Salem State Fair in Roanoke, Virginia, the evening of July 3, 2003. Id. at 209.

         On cross-examination, Cole stated she recalled a meeting with detectives from South Carolina. Id. at 214. Cole stated that she had told one of the detective, Detective Van Doran, that she had a gun that was stolen out of a Mazda that had been wrecked some years before. Id. at 215. Cole testified:

Q. You don't deny that? .
A. No, I don't.
Q. And now you're telling us you gave a gun to Mr. Wilson?
A. We're talking about two different guns here.
Q. And they were talking about one gun at that point, and he was asking you about a gun that you own?
A. The one he asked me about I gave him the correct answer, yes, I did.
Q. But you didn't tell him at that time that you gave it to James Wilson, did you?
A. Because that's not what he asked me, he asked me did I own one, I said, yes, that was stolen out of my car.
Q. He asked you did you own a gun, is that correct?
A. Yes, he did.
Q. And the gun that you told him about, you said was stolen out of the car?
A. Yes.
Q. Did you tell him you owned two guns?
A. No, because that's not what he asked me.
Q. Well, what did he ask you?
A. Did I have a gun that was taken, and I said, yes, I did.
Q. He didn't ask you if you knew about a gun?
A. No - yes, he did - yes, he did, I'm sorry, yes he did.
Q. And you said it was stolen?
A. One was stolen out of my Mazda.
Q. One was stolen?
A. Yes, that's exactly what I said ...

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