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Buckson v. State

Supreme Court of South Carolina

May 23, 2018

Jerome Curtis Buckson, Petitioner,
v.
State of South Carolina, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-001430

          Heard December 13, 2017

          Appeal from Spartanburg County J. Derham Cole, Trial Court Judge J. Mark Hayes II, Post-Conviction Relief Judge

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

          Tricia A. Blanchette, of the Law Office of Tricia A. Blanchette, LLC, of Leesville, for Petitioner.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Valerie Garcia Giovanoli, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

          FEW, JUSTICE

         The post-conviction relief (PCR) court granted Jerome Curtis Buckson relief and ordered a new trial. The State appealed, arguing no probative evidence supports the findings of the PCR court. The court of appeals reversed the PCR court. We reverse the court of appeals.

          I. Facts and Procedural History

         Buckson and Tiffany Foggie lived together in Foggie's apartment in Spartanburg until at least early to mid-January 2006. At approximately three o'clock in the morning on Monday, January 30, 2006, Buckson entered the apartment through a kitchen window, and proceeded up the stairs to Foggie's bedroom. The door to the bedroom was closed and locked. Foggie and Buckson had been yelling to one another from the time he was outside, and Foggie told Buckson to leave. Instead, he forced the door open to find another man in the room. After a brief struggle, Foggie was shot. Buckson fled the apartment and called 911. He told the 911 operator the man shot at him, and that he heard other shots as he fled. He later learned Foggie was dead from a gunshot wound.

         The State charged Buckson with murder and first degree burglary. At trial, Buckson testified the man approached him with a gun, and when Foggie tried to "swat" the gun down, it discharged. The jury found Buckson not guilty of murder. As to the burglary, the State presented evidence that Buckson no longer lived in the apartment on the night Foggie died, and Buckson's trial counsel presented evidence that he did. The jury found Buckson guilty of first degree burglary. The trial court sentenced him to twenty years in prison. The court of appeals affirmed. State v. Buckson, Op. No. 2010-UP-282 (S.C. Ct. App. filed May 20, 2010).

         Buckson filed a PCR application alleging ineffective assistance of counsel. Buckson's primary claim was trial counsel was ineffective in his presentation of evidence that Buckson still lived in the apartment on the night Foggie died. See State v. Singley, 392 S.C. 270, 276, 709 S.E.2d 603, 606 (2011) (stating "'one cannot commit the offence of burglary by breaking into his own home'" (quoting State v. Trapp, 17 S.C. 467, 470 (1882))).[1] The PCR court found "trial counsel was [deficient] when he failed to prepare and investigate, failed to call witnesses, and failed to utilize trial witnesses to establish that the apartment . . . was . . . his . . . residence, " and Buckson "was prejudiced as a result of counsel's [deficient performance]." The PCR court granted Buckson a new trial.

         The State appealed by filing a petition for a writ of certiorari in which it raised four separate issues. Three of the issues relate to Buckson's primary claim. As to these three issues-which we address collectively-the State argued only that the PCR court's findings of deficiency and prejudice were not supported by any probative evidence. The State raised no questions of law, and did not make any argument that the PCR court failed to defer to the strategic considerations of trial counsel. The State's other issue related to a different claim we need not address.[2]

         We transferred the State's certiorari petition to the court of appeals pursuant to Rule 243(1) of the South Carolina Appellate Court Rules. The court of appeals granted the petition, and reversed in an unpublished opinion. Buckson v. State, Op. No. 2016-UP-174 (S.C. Ct. App. filed Apr. 13, 2016). We granted Buckson's petition for a writ of certiorari, and now reverse the court of appeals.

         II. ...


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