Jamison v. State, Appellate Case No. 2012-212996

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtJUSTICE KITTREDGE
Docket NumberOpinion No. 27454,Appellate Case No. 2012-212996
PartiesMatthew Jamison, Respondent, v. State of South Carolina, Petitioner.
Decision Date22 October 2014

Matthew Jamison, Respondent,
State of South Carolina, Petitioner.

Appellate Case No. 2012-212996
Opinion No. 27454


Heard March 5, 2014
October 22, 2014


Appeal from Richland County
William P. Keesley, Post-Conviction Relief Judge


Assistant Attorney General Brian T. Petrano, of Columbia, for Petitioner.

Tricia A. Blanchette, of Columbia, for Respondent.

JUSTICE KITTREDGE: This is a post-conviction relief (PCR) matter. Respondent Matthew Jamison pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to twenty years in prison. No direct appeal was taken. Respondent's first application for PCR was denied. Respondent filed a second PCR application alleging newly discovered evidence. The PCR judge granted relief, and the court

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of appeals affirmed. Jamison v. State, Op. No. 2012-UP-437 (S.C. Ct. App. filed July 18, 2012). We reverse.


This case involves a shooting that occurred at a party one Saturday evening in June 2000, following a series of altercations between apparent rival drug dealers, one of whom was Respondent Matthew Jamison.1 On the night of the shooting, Respondent encountered the rival group at a concert in Columbia, South Carolina. An eyewitness testified that the group walked past Respondent and "gave him a look like, yeah, we're going to get you tonight." After the concert, Respondent encountered the group again in a parking lot. Hundreds of people were crowded in the parking lot, and an eyewitness saw Respondent leaning against the front of a vehicle in the parking lot. According to Respondent, an individual he referred to as "Jig" pointed at him, and Jig and others with him approached Respondent as if they were going to "blitz" or jump Respondent. Respondent pulled a gun and fired shots towards the group. One of the bullets struck and killed the fifteen-year-old victim, an innocent bystander who was not involved in the ongoing dispute. By all accounts, the intended target was Jig.

Immediately following the shooting, Respondent was apprehended while attempting to flee from the scene. That night, Respondent gave a statement to police in which he admitted firing the gun into the crowd. Respondent was indicted for murder, but his attorney negotiated with the solicitor for Respondent to plead guilty to the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter.

Before accepting Respondent's guilty plea, the plea judge engaged in a thorough plea colloquy with Respondent, specifically including the following:

The Court: Now, realizing, [Respondent], that when you plead guilty, you admit the truth of the allegation contained in this indictment against you. You're saying that I had a gun and I shot [the victim] and he died. You understand that?

The Defendant: Yes, sir.

The Court: All right. I tell you that, sir, because you may have some

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defenses to this charge, [Respondent]. Of course, I have no way of knowing that, but you need to realize that by pleading guilty here today, you give up any defenses you might have. Do you understand that, sir?

The Defendant: Yes, sir.

. . . .

The Court: Now, [Respondent], I'll ask you, once again, did you commit this offense?

The Defendant: Yes, sir.

The Court: All right. So, [Respondent], once again, you're telling me you are pleading guilty to . . . voluntary manslaughter, because you did, in fact, . . . shoot [the victim] and as a result of your gunshot, [the victim] was killed. You shot him and he died, is that correct?

The Defendant: Yes, sir.

. . . .

The Court: Now, [Respondent] has anyone promised you anything or held out any hope of reward in order to get you to plead guilty?

The Defendant: No, sir.

The Court: Has anyone threatened you or used force to get you to plead guilty?

The Defendant: No, sir.

The Court: Has anyone used any pressure or intimidation to cause you to plead guilty?

The Defendant: No, sir.

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The Court: Have you had enough time to make up your mind as to whether or not you want to plead guilty?

The Defendant: Yes, sir.

The Court: Are you pleading guilty of your own free will and accord?

The Defendant: Yes, sir.

Additionally, during the plea hearing, Respondent's counsel stated the following on behalf of Respondent:

[Respondent] had no individual animus against [the victim]. [The victim] was standing with a group of folks that had been engaged with [Respondent] some time in the past and that night as well and he fired towards that crowd because he thought that they were coming at him and he was coming at them.

And he understands the aspect we know in the law as transferred intent. It was not a self-defense. It may have been a very imperfect self-defense. But those are the issues that we would have brought forward. But he had no individual animus. He had no reason. Didn't even know this boy. It was a shot at a crowd of people in a very crowded environment in which this young man was struck and killed and died as a result.

(emphasis added). The plea judge sentenced Respondent to twenty years in prison. No direct appeal was taken.

In his first PCR application, Respondent alleged his guilty plea was not knowingly and voluntarily entered. At the PCR hearing, plea counsel testified the theory of the defense was as follows:

It was that "Jig" had a gun and had come at—had come at [Respondent]. It was a very imperfect self-defense because nobody else sees a gun. There was no other gun found, as I recall it. [Respondent] in his statement to the police says something about—he fails to say to the police, I saw "Jig" with a gun while he was coming

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at me. His words were, "they were going to blitz me." That means a whole bunch of them were going to jump him. But later he tells me that "Jig" had a gun. And we wouldn't ever verify that. I mean, I talked to lots of witnesses, went to the scene, had a private investigator. We went out several times trying to get any one person to say that "Jig" had a gun. We couldn't do that.2

The PCR judge denied relief. Respondent sought a writ of certiorari, and his counsel filed a Johnson3 petition. Respondent filed a pro se petition, in which he raised, for the first time, a newly discovered evidence claim.

Specifically, Respondent claimed that, while serving his prison sentence, he met a fellow inmate who allegedly was an eyewitness to the shooting incident and was willing to provide testimony to support Respondent's self-defense claim. Attached to Respondent's pro se petition was an affidavit of Theotis Bellamy, in which Bellamy discussed the prior difficulties between Respondent and the group involved in the incident and stated he believed Respondent would have been further harmed "if things did not happen the way they did" on the night of the shooting. Bellamy's affidavit also stated he previously had an opportunity to give his version of what happened on the night of the shooting; however, he did not share his knowledge with defense investigators earlier because Jig had threatened his family and he was afraid. Ultimately, the court of appeals denied the petition.

While the Johnson petition from his first PCR application was pending before the

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court of appeals, Respondent filed a second PCR application alleging newly discovered evidence and attached a second affidavit by Bellamy that was essentially the same as the first.

At the second PCR hearing, Respondent admitted shooting the victim but maintained he was defending himself against the group led by Jig. Respondent claimed he was scared when the group approached him because they had previously shot at and threatened him and jumped on one of his family members. Respondent explained that his guilty plea was influenced by the fact that no witness would come forward and corroborate his contention that Jig had a weapon.4 Respondent stated he would not have pled guilty but would have insisted on going to trial if he could have presented a stronger self-defense claim.

Bellamy testified at the PCR hearing that he knew the members of the rival group and that they carried guns. Specifically, Bellamy said he saw Jig with a gun in his pants just before the shooting occurred. Bellamy stated he saw the group approach Respondent at the after-party, gesturing "like they're fixing to pull out weapons," and that Respondent shot at Jig before Jig could shoot Respondent. Bellamy stated he did not come forward previously because Jig threatened him and his family, but now that Jig was serving time in the federal penitentiary, he felt more comfortable testifying in court.

The PCR judge granted Respondent relief on the basis of "fundamental fairness" and ordered a new trial. The PCR judge found Respondent met his burden of proving that Bellamy's eyewitness testimony constituted newly discovered evidence and that Bellamy's testimony would likely change the result at trial. In granting relief, the PCR judge stated:

While the record demonstrates that a claim of self-defense was known to the Applicant from the outset and that his attorney tried to get someone to back up that claim, no one would come forward. This

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Court is concerned about granting a new trial because a claim of self-defense can be waived. Yet, no law has been cited to the Court concerning whether the entry of a guilty plea where

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