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United States v. Heyward

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

July 6, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANTWAN HEYWARD

          ORDER

          DAVID C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on the sentencing of Antwan Heyward (“Heyward”). In this sentencing, there is a dispute over whether the offense conduct satisfies the cross-reference for second-degree murder. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds that it does.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Heyward pleaded guilty to felon in possession of a firearm. On the night of July 18, 2014 at approximately 2:30 AM, Heyward shot out of the porch of the house of Joseph Foreman (“Foreman”) at 2232 Suffolk Street in North Charleston, SC. The shot went through a car windshield and hit Collette Warren (“Warren”), a housekeeper at a downtown hotel whom Heyward knew socially, killing her instantly. Heyward pleaded guilty to felon in possession of a firearm in federal court.[1]

         A presentence investigation report (“PSR”) was prepared in this case. Both Heyward and the government submitted objections to the PSR. Because this sentencing presents complex issues of law and fact, the court issues this written order to detail the particularized findings that contributed to the court's calculation of the cross-reference issue. It does not modify the sentence or its foundation.

         II. DISCUSSION

         This matter is before the court on the sentencing of Antwan Heyward, who has pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm. The issue before the court is whether the appropriate cross-reference is to voluntary manslaughter or second-degree murder. The PSR recommends that the appropriate cross-reference is second-degree murder.[2] Heyward rebuts that the appropriate cross-reference is voluntary manslaughter, as he had recently received a settlement for his worker's compensation claim of $10, 000 and he was afraid that someone was coming to rob him of the check. This is an imperfect self-defense argument. Heyward also argues that he was high on cocaine at the time of the shooting, and that his voluntary intoxication obviates the state of mind required for second-degree murder. The government rebuts that the appropriate cross-reference is second-degree murder because Heyward's actions were a gross deviation from the standard of reasonable care.

         As a threshold matter, Heyward and the government present drastically different versions of Heyward's relationship with Foreman, Heyward's relationship with Warren, and the facts supporting Heyward's imperfect self-defense theory. During the hearing on this issue, neither Heyward nor the government presented any testimony. Therefore, the court reviewed the transcript of the “stand your ground” hearing in state court as well as the state court order on that issue to come to an understanding of the facts of the case.

         The elements for second-degree murder in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1111 are: (1) the unlawful killing of a human being; (2) with malice aforethought; and (3) within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Malice aforethought “may be established by evidence of conduct which is reckless and wanton and a gross deviation from a reasonable standard of care, of such a nature that a jury is warranted in inferring that defendant was aware of a serious risk of death or serious bodily harm.” United States v. Williams, 342 F.3d 350, 356 (4th Cir. 2003). Voluntary manslaughter is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1112(a) as “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice” and “[u]pon a sudden quarrel or heat of passion.” As the Tenth Circuit held:

[V]oluntary manslaughter encompasses all of the elements of murder: it requires proof of the physical act of unlawfully causing the death of another, and of the mental state that would constitute malice, but for the fact that the killing was committed in adequately provoked heat of passion or provocation. Thus, the only difference between second degree murder and voluntary manslaughter in the homicide hierarchy is that voluntary manslaughter is committed in the heat of passion, and the presence of this mitigating factor negates the malice that would otherwise attach given an intentional or reckless mental state.

United States v. Serawop, 410 F.3d 656, 665 (10th Cir. 2005) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         A. Imperfect Self Defense

         Heyward advances an imperfect self-defense theory, and argues that this negates the malice aforethought intent required for a second-degree murder cross-reference. The court disagrees.

         Shooting into a car in his driveway means that at the very least, Heyward was aware that there was a high risk of serious bodily harm. See United States v. Wood, 207 F.3d 1222, 1228 (10th Cir. 2000) (“‘[S]econd degree murder's malice aforethought element is satisfied by: . . . (2) intent-to-do-serious-bodily-injury . . .'”) (quoting United States v. Pearson, 159 F.3d 480, 486 (10th Cir. 1998)); United States v. Fleming, 739 F.2d 945, 948 (4th Cir. 1984) (Holding that to support a conviction for murder, the government “need only” prove that the defendant acted “without regard for the life and safety of others”). Heyward argues that he was acting in self defense, because he believed the car's occupants were coming to rob him of a recently-acquired settlement check. Certainly, courts have found that where there is evidence a person was scared for his life, a jury should be instructed on voluntary manslaughter. For example, in Smith v. State, 370 S.W.2d 543 (Tenn. 1963), the court held that the evidence was not sufficient to show that the defendant acted with malice aforethought in killing the deceased, and that the evidence did not, therefore, sustain the verdict of second-degree murder. There, the defendant was a night watchman on duty and was suddenly confronted with a person coming toward him in the dark with a flashlight, in a ...


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