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Thompson v. State

Supreme Court of South Carolina

March 21, 2018

Yancey Thompson, Petitioner,
v.
State of South Carolina, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2014-001611

          Submitted October 16, 2017

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

          Appeal from Lexington County R. Lawton McIntosh, Circuit Court Judge

          Appellate Defender Robert M. Pachak, of Columbia, for Petitioner.

          Attorney General Alan M. Wilson and Senior Assistant Attorney General Melody Jane Brown, of Columbia, for Respondent.

          JUSTICE JAMES

         We granted a writ of certiorari to review the circuit court's denial of Petitioner's application for post-conviction relief (PCR).[1] We reverse the PCR court's denial of relief and remand to the court of general sessions for a new trial.

         I.

         In 2008, Petitioner Yancey Thompson was convicted of first degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC) with a minor, second degree CSC with a minor, and disseminating obscene material to a minor. He was sentenced to concurrent prison terms of twenty-five years, twenty years, and ten years, respectively. Petitioner appealed and this Court affirmed his convictions. State v. Thompson, Op. No. 2010-MO-028 (S.C. Sup. Ct. filed Nov. 8, 2010). Petitioner then sought PCR. The PCR court concluded Petitioner had established his trial counsel was deficient in certain respects but denied relief on the basis that Petitioner had not proven he was prejudiced by these deficiencies.

         II.

         When Victim was an infant, her mother Monica Gleaton (Mother) sent her to live with her cousin Julia Thompson (Cousin) and Petitioner because Mother was seventeen years old, had four other children, and was therefore unable to care for Victim. When Victim was twelve years old, someone reported to authorities she was being physically abused and neglected by Cousin. While being interviewed by South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) caseworker Trina Elfering, Victim denied she was being abused by Cousin but reported Petitioner had sexually abused her from the time she was five years old. Ms. Elfering reported the allegations to the Lexington County Sheriff, resulting in the charges against Petitioner.

         III.

         Petitioner claims his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to inadmissible hearsay testimony and by failing to object to testimony that improperly bolstered Victim's credibility.

         To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, the PCR applicant must prove (1)counsel's performance fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2)the applicant sustained prejudice as a result of counsel's deficient performance. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687-88 (1984); Cherry v. State, 300 S.C. 115, 117-18, 386 S.E.2d 624, 625 (1989). To establish prejudice, the applicant must prove "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's unprofessional errors, the result of the proceeding would have been different." Cherry, 300 S.C. at 117- 18, 386 S.E.2d at 625 (quoting Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694).

         In a PCR case, this Court will uphold the PCR court's factual findings if there is any evidence of probative value in the record to support them. Sellner v. State, 416 S.C. 606, 610, 787 S.E.2d 525, 527 (2016). However, this Court gives no deference to the PCR court's conclusions of law, and we review those conclusions de novo. Jamison v. State, 410 S.C. 456, 465, 765 S.E.2d 123, 127 (2014).

         A. Deficient Performance

         The PCR court's deficiency findings were based upon an analysis of the South Carolina Rules of Evidence governing hearsay and upon the common law barring inadmissible bolstering testimony; because these findings-in this case-are conclusions of law, we review them de novo.

         Failure to Object to Inadmissible Hearsay Testimony

         In his application and during the PCR hearing, Petitioner claimed trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to inadmissible hearsay testimony given by DSS caseworker Elfering. The PCR court did not address this allegation in its order. Petitioner raised the issue again in his motion for reconsideration made pursuant to Rule 59(e) of the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure. The PCR court again did ...


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