United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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.
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.
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
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. 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.
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.
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).
Imperfect Self Defense
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.
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