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Goss v. State

Supreme Court of South Carolina

October 17, 2018

Darrell L. Goss, Petitioner,
State of South Carolina, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2016-002186

          Heard June 12, 2018


          Appeal from Charleston County J. C. Nicholson Jr., Trial Court Judge Deadra L. Jefferson, Post-Conviction Relief Judge

          Appellate Defender David Alexander, of Columbia, for Petitioner.

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General Julie Amanda Coleman, both of Columbia, for Respondent.


         Darrell L. Goss was convicted of kidnapping, assault and battery with intent to kill (ABWIK), and armed robbery. In this post-conviction relief (PCR) matter, the PCR court denied relief, and the court of appeals affirmed. Goss v. State, Op. No. 2016-UP-382 (S.C. Ct. App. filed July 27, 2016). We granted Goss's petition for a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the court of appeals. We remand to the circuit court for a de novo PCR hearing.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Goss was charged in connection with the armed robbery of Urban Wear, a clothing store in North Charleston. The store owner, Andy Ayazgok, reported that five unmasked black males entered the store through the main storefront door at about 7:30 p.m., just before closing time, and proceeded to beat him, tie him and his employee up, and flee after stealing merchandise and cash. Of the five assailants, Andy was able to identify only Joy Mack as one of the assailants. Goss and Mack were tried jointly. Andy did not identify Goss as a perpetrator but identified him as having been in the store the week before the robbery.[1]

         Sergeant Al Hallman was a member of the crime scene unit that processed the scene and was qualified by the trial court as an expert in fingerprint identification. He testified that when he arrived on the scene, he observed what he described as "wet" prints on the exterior of the glass storefront door; specifically, Sergeant Hallman testified the prints were a "simultaneous impression" of three fingers and a palm. The door from which the prints were lifted was the door through which the perpetrators gained entry and was also the door used by customers. Sergeant Hallman testified the prints were wet from either sweat or some other substance, which indicated to him the prints were fresh. He waited until the prints were dry and lifted them for possible later comparison. Andy testified at trial that he customarily cleaned the inside and outside of the storefront door each morning, and he testified he did so when he opened the store on the morning of the robbery.

         Within hours after the robbery, a man named Lorenzo Johnson advised lead detective O.J. Faison that petitioner Goss and his brother, Benjamin Goss, were two of the perpetrators. Detective Faison relayed this information to Sergeant Hallman. Hallman compared the prints he lifted from the storefront door to inked impressions from petitioner Goss; he testified the prints matched. After the prints were matched to Goss, law enforcement obtained a warrant to search Goss's residence and any vehicles on the premises. The warrant was executed at approximately 9:30 p.m. the night following the robbery. A .357 Magnum handgun with blood on the barrel was found in a car parked in the yard of the residence occupied by Goss and eight or nine other people, including several black males. DNA testing established the blood was Andy's. Clothing with tags was found in a bedroom in the residence, and Andy identified some of the clothing as being part of the merchandise stolen during the robbery.

         Goss's mother, Thomasina Goss, was trial counsel's primary contact prior to trial because trial counsel had known her for many years and because Goss was in jail the entire twenty months before trial. She was the only defense witness called at trial and testified to the following: Goss lived in the house with her and eight other people, she bought the stolen clothing from some unidentified men in the street in front of her house on the same day law enforcement searched her home, she knew the clothes were likely stolen, she had never seen Goss drive or ride in the car in which the bloody gun was found, and everyone who lives in the house uses the bedroom in which the stolen clothing was found. The State impeached her with a shoplifting conviction and two convictions for giving false information to the police.

         As noted above, the jury found both Goss and Mack guilty as indicted; the trial court sentenced Goss to three concurrent twenty year sentences. The court of appeals affirmed Goss's convictions in State v. Goss, Op. No. 2011-UP-214 (S.C. Ct. App. filed May 17, 2011). Goss subsequently commenced this action for PCR.

         Goss testified at the PCR hearing he retained trial counsel two years before trial and was in jail that entire time. He further testified he met with trial counsel only once during that time and claimed that meeting was to discuss a plea offer. Goss claimed he tried to tell trial counsel of his innocence but trial counsel told him not to tell him anything because "whatever you tell me, I'm stuck with." This led to Goss cursing at trial counsel and telling him he did not want trial counsel to represent ...

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