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Golson v. McFadden

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division

August 15, 2017

Eddie Clay Golson, Petitioner,
v.
Warden McFadden, Respondent.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          MARGARET B. SEYMOUR, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         Eddie Clay Golson (“Petitioner”) is an inmate who is currently housed at the Leiber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, South Carolina. On October 31, 2016, Petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2254, challenging his convictions for burglary in the first degree and possession of a weapon during a violent crime in Lexington County, South Carolina. ECF No. 1. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges for pretrial handling.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Petitioner was indicted at the August 2008 term of the Lexington County Grand Jury for burglary in the first degree (2008-GS-32-3181) and possession of a weapon during a violent crime (2008-GS-32-3283). ECF No. 12-3 at 47-50. Elizabeth C. Fullwood, Esq., and Bennett E. Castro, Esq., represented Petitioner at trial. ECF No. 12-1. On March 30 and 31, 2000, the Honorable R. Knox McMahon conducted a jury trial. Id. At trial, the state presented evidence that the victim, Matthew Olsen (“Olsen”) was awoken by noises in his home. Olsen went downstairs to investigate the noise when he noticed the door knob had been pulled off the front door. ECF No. 12-1 at 99. Olsen then confronted a black male with a “do-rag” over his face. Id. Olsen ran to the kitchen to grab his gun, and when he returned he saw the intruder climbing through a broken front window. Id. at 100. Olsen followed the intruder out but went back inside to call the police after the intruder left the premises. Id. Deputies from the Lexington County Sheriff Department responded to the call. Id. Deputies took an inventory of the missing items, including a luger pistol, and processed the crime scene. Id. at 101-02, 105. Deputies collected a shard of the broken glass, which contained blood; a can of Hurricane beer; and fingerprints throughout the house. Id. at 160-62; 164-65. Deputies spoke with the victim's daughter, who had gone to a nearby convenience store to ask the clerk whether she had sold anyone Hurricane beer that night. Id. at 152, 183. The clerk remembered selling the beer to Petitioner. Id. at 184. The clerk remembered Petitioner coming back to the store a second and third time during her shift that night. Id. at 185-86. The second time Petitioner came into the store, the clerk remembered that he had a cut on his arm. Id. at 185.

         The clerk identified Petitioner through a photo line-up. Id. at 189-90. Based on this information, the deputies obtained a blood sample from Petitioner on January 12, 2009. ECF No. 225. The DNA from Petitioner's blood sample was compared to the DNA collected from the shard of broken glass and the swab taken from the top of the Hurricane beer can. ECF No. 12-2 at 50-52. Petitioner's DNA was a partial match to the beer can swab and a complete match to the blood on the shard of glass. Id. at 50-53. Petitioner's counsel objected to the introduction of the DNA comparison as the state did not provide the individual who took the sample as a witness. The court overruled the objection and the state introduced the DNA results into evidence. Id. at 38-43.

         The jury found Petitioner guilty on both charges. ECF No. 12-2 at 96. Judge McMahon sentenced Petitioner to twenty-five years imprisonment for the burglary conviction and five years imprisonment for the weapons charge, to run concurrently. Id. at 107.

         On April 3, 2009, Petitioner timely filed a Notice of Appeal. ECF No. 12-2. Appellate Counsel M. Celia Robinson, Esq., represented Petitioner on appeal. Attorney Robinson raised the following issue on appeal:

The trial judge erred in overruling the defense objection to the chain of custody of appellant's blood sample where the State failed to present testimony from the medical personnel responsible for drawing and preserving the blood sample.

ECF No. 12-5 at 5. On April 25, 2012, the South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed Petitioner's convictions in an unpublished decision. ECF No. 12-7. The Court of Appeals issued a remittitur on May 15, 2012. ECF No. 12-8.

         Petitioner filed a Post-Conviction Relief (“PCR”) application on June 14, 2012. ECF No. 12-2 at 109-15. Petitioner alleged various trial court evidentiary errors and jurisdiction issues. ECF No. 12-2 at 109-15. Petitioner was appointed counsel, Charles T. Brooks, III, Esq., who filed two amended applications alleging additional jurisdictional issues. Id. at 116-17. On January 14, 2014, the Honorable Brian M. Gibbons held a PCR evidentiary hearing. ECF No.127-61. Petitioner and his trial counsel testified. Id. Petitioner testified that

[t]he blood from the broken glass and the swab from the beer can that was collected from the crime scene was entered into the state database and it did not match my DNA profile. These results were conducted on November 25th of 2008. The crime happened on August 18th of 2007. And my DNA was submitted to the State database in the year of 2004. So this would have been impossible for me to escape that.

ECF No. 12-2 at 147. His trial counsel testified that she independently evaluated and investigated the DNA report and saw no potential issue with the reports. Id. at 157-58. Petitioner introduced, as an exhibit, a report generated on November 12, 2008, demonstrating a match between Target 08-14187-2 (believed to be the shard of glass, see ECF No. 12-2 at 51) and Candidate 4-3006 (Petitioner, ECF No. 23 at 2). ECF No. 12-3 at 22, 30. The PCR court denied Petitioner's ineffective assistance of counsel claims. ECF No. 12-3 at 43-44. The PCR court held:

[Petitioner] failed to meet his burden to prove counsel's performance was deficient or ineffective for failing to adequately investigate the purportedly exculpatory evidence. “This Court has stated previously that criminal defense attorneys have a duty to undertake a reasonable investigation, which at a minimum includes interviewing potential witnesses and making an independent investigation of the facts and circumstances of the case.” Edwards v. State, 392 S.C. 449, 456, 710 S.E.2d 60, 64 (2011). First, [Petitioner] asserts that counsel failed to exploit the purportedly exculpatory DNA evidence that linked him to the crime scene. This Court finds that [Petitioner's] assertions rested upon unqualified and conclusory speculation. See Moorehead v. State, 329 S.C. 329, 334, 496 S.E.2d 415, 417 (1998) (“Failure to conduct an independent investigation does not constitute ineffective assistance of counsel when the allegation is supported only by mere speculation as to the result.”). [Petitioner] introduced an unauthenticated exhibit from [South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (“S.L.E.D.”)] that provides him no support here; facially it confirms the S.LE.D.'s expert's trial testimony. See U.S. v. Taylor, 802 F.2d 1108, 1119 (9th Cir. 1986) (Vague and speculative assertions are deficient.). In contrast, counsel provided credible testimony regarding her efforts in attacking the evidence at trial. This Court finds counsel's performance more than sufficient on the matter. See U.S. v. Taylor, 832 F.2d 1187, 1195-96 (10th Cir. 1987) (“The record of counsel's performance in examination and cross-examination of witnesses may show preparation and knowledge of the case.”). Therefore, this Court readily denies and dismisses this allegation.

Id.

         Petitioner appealed the denial of PCR on October 8, 2014. ECF No. 12-10. Benjamin John Trapp, Esq., represented Petitioner on appeal. On June 16, 2015, Petitioner's attorney filed a Johnson[1] petition for a ...


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