United States District Court, D. South Carolina
Steven C. Briscoe, Petitioner,
Warden Leroy Cartledge, Respondent.
ORDER AND OPINION
Margaret B. Seymour Senior United States District Judge.
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. §
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.
was indicted for murder on October 24, 2005. ECF No. 14-4,
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
Id. at 31-34.
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);
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.
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
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.
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
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
Id. at 471-72.
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.
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.
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
Q. You don't deny that? .
A. No, I don't.
Q. And now you're telling us you gave a gun to Mr.
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?
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 ...