Sellers v. State, No. 25917.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
Writing for the CourtChief Justice TOAL
Citation607 S.E.2d 82,362 S.C. 182
PartiesJames A. SELLERS, Respondent, v. STATE of South Carolina, Petitioner.
Decision Date04 January 2005
Docket NumberNo. 25917.

362 S.C. 182
607 S.E.2d 82

James A. SELLERS, Respondent,
v.
STATE of South Carolina, Petitioner

No. 25917.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Submitted November 4, 2004.

Decided January 4, 2005.

Rehearing Denied January 20, 2005.


362 S.C. 185
Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley Elliott, and Assistant Attorney General Christopher L. Newton, all of Columbia, for Petitioner

Assistant Appellate Defender Aileen P. Clare, of Columbia, for Respondent.

362 S.C. 186
Chief Justice TOAL

The post-conviction relief (PCR) judge granted James A. Sellers (Respondent) a new trial after finding that counsel was ineffective for (1) failing to move for a directed verdict on the charge of accessory before the fact of murder, (2) failing to request a jury charge for a lesser-included offense on the trafficking in crystal methamphetamines and accessory before the fact of murder charges, and (3) failing to move for a ruling upon the competency of a witness. We reverse the PCR judge's decision.

FACTUAL / PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Respondent was arrested for accessory before the fact of murder and trafficking in crystal methamphetamine. Respondent was indicted and convicted on both charges.

At trial, the State alleged that Respondent and William Perry (Perry) arranged a drug deal, in which they planned to set up the supplier so that they could keep the drugs for themselves. During the drug deal, which Respondent did not attend, Perry shot the supplier because he believed the supplier was about to pull a gun on him. Perry pled guilty to voluntary manslaughter. Respondent's counsel moved for a directed verdict, arguing that Respondent could not have been an accessory before the fact to murder because he was unaware of Perry's intention to shoot the supplier. The motion was denied.

The State alleged that Respondent gave Perry the gun in case he needed it during the deal. But Respondent's mother testified that Perry took the gun without Respondent knowing what Perry was going to do with it. Perry testified that Respondent did not tell him to shoot the supplier, but that Respondent gave him the gun prior to the meeting with the supplier. Respondent did not testify at trial.

None of the drugs in question were ever recovered. During trial, Bruce Lewey (Lewey) was the sole witness to testify as to the amount of drugs in question. Lewey was another partner in the scheme with Respondent and Perry. Lewey testified that he weighed the drugs on a digital scale, and the drugs weighed six ounces. Lewey testified that he has been diagnosed with and was prescribed a psychotic medication for

362 S.C. 187
schizophrenia. He further testified that he stopped taking the medication and had been a methamphetamine addict for over fifteen years

The jury found Respondent guilty of trafficking crystal methamphetamine and accessory before the fact of murder. Respondent was sentenced to concurrent terms of twenty-five years imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of $50,000. This Court affirmed his convictions and sentences on direct appeal. State v. Sellers, Op. No. 99-MO-79 (S.C. Sup. Ct. filed November 15, 1999).

Respondent filed an application for PCR and was granted relief based on three of the eleven grounds asserted. The PCR judge granted a new trial. This Court granted certiorari to review the PCR judge's decision.

The State raises the following issues for review:

I. Did the PCR court err in ruling that counsel was ineffective for failing to request a directed verdict for the accessory before the fact of murder charge on the basis that the State failed to prove the principal's guilt?
II. Did the PCR court err in ruling that counsel was ineffective for failing to request jury charges on lesser-included offenses on the murder and trafficking offenses?
III. Did the PCR court err in ruling that counsel was ineffective for failing to move for the trial court to rule upon the competency of a witness?

LAW/ANALYSIS

STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court gives great deference to the PCR courts findings of fact and conclusions of law. Caprood v. State, 338 S.C. 103, 109, 525 S.E.2d 514, 517 (2000). On review, a PCR judge's findings will be upheld if there is any evidence of probative value to support them. Cherry v. State, 300 S.C. 115, 119, 386 S.E.2d 624, 626 (1989). If no probative evidence exists to support the findings, this Court will reverse. Pierce v. State, 338 S.C. 139, 144, 526 S.E.2d 222, 225 (2000).

362 S.C. 188
To establish a claim that counsel was ineffective, a PCR applicant must show that (1) counsels representation fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, and (2) but for counsels errors, there is a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would have been different. Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 104 S.Ct. 2052, 80 L.Ed.2d 674 (1984); Johnson v. State, 325 S.C. 182, 186, ...

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25 practice notes
  • Smalls v. State, Appellate Case No. 2016-001079
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 7 February 2018
    ..., 363 S.C. 414, 417, 611 S.E.2d 901, 903 (2005) ; Dempsey v. State , 363 S.C. 365, 368, 610 S.E.2d 812, 814 (2005) ; Sellers v. State , 362 S.C. 182, 187, 607 S.E.2d 82, 84 (2005) ; Magazine v. State , 361 S.C. 610, 615, 606 S.E.2d 761, 763 (2004) ; Huggler v. State , 360 S.C. 627, 632, 602......
  • State v. Moore, No. 4247.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 18 May 2007
    ...with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight. State v. Weston, 367 S.C. 279, 625 S.E.2d 641 (2006); Sellers v. State, 362 S.C. 182, 607 S.E.2d 82 (2005); State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 588, 606 S.E.2d 475 (2004); State v. Rosemond, 356 S.C. 426, 430, 589 S.E.2d 757, 758-59 (200......
  • State v. Dantonio, No. 4333.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 16 January 2008
    ...only with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight. Weston, 367 S.C. at 292, 625 S.E.2d at 648; Sellers v. State, 362 S.C. 182, 188, 607 S.E.2d 82, 85 (2005); State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 588, 593-94, 606 S.E.2d 475, 478 (2004); State v. Rosemond, 356 S.C. 426, 430, 589 S.E.2d......
  • State v. Zeigler, No. 3967.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 21 March 2005
    ...for a directed verdict, the trial court is concerned with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight. Sellers v. State, 362 S.C. 182, 607 S.E.2d 82 (2005); State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 364 S.C. 102 588, 606 S.E.2d 475 (2004); State v. Wilds, 355 S.C. 269, 584 S.E.2d 138 (Ct.App.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
25 cases
  • Smalls v. State, Appellate Case No. 2016-001079
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • 7 February 2018
    ..., 363 S.C. 414, 417, 611 S.E.2d 901, 903 (2005) ; Dempsey v. State , 363 S.C. 365, 368, 610 S.E.2d 812, 814 (2005) ; Sellers v. State , 362 S.C. 182, 187, 607 S.E.2d 82, 84 (2005) ; Magazine v. State , 361 S.C. 610, 615, 606 S.E.2d 761, 763 (2004) ; Huggler v. State , 360 S.C. 627, 632, 602......
  • State v. Moore, No. 4247.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 18 May 2007
    ...with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight. State v. Weston, 367 S.C. 279, 625 S.E.2d 641 (2006); Sellers v. State, 362 S.C. 182, 607 S.E.2d 82 (2005); State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 588, 606 S.E.2d 475 (2004); State v. Rosemond, 356 S.C. 426, 430, 589 S.E.2d 757, 758-59 (200......
  • State v. Dantonio, No. 4333.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 16 January 2008
    ...only with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight. Weston, 367 S.C. at 292, 625 S.E.2d at 648; Sellers v. State, 362 S.C. 182, 188, 607 S.E.2d 82, 85 (2005); State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 588, 593-94, 606 S.E.2d 475, 478 (2004); State v. Rosemond, 356 S.C. 426, 430, 589 S.E.2d......
  • State v. Zeigler, No. 3967.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • 21 March 2005
    ...for a directed verdict, the trial court is concerned with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight. Sellers v. State, 362 S.C. 182, 607 S.E.2d 82 (2005); State v. Cherry, 361 S.C. 364 S.C. 102 588, 606 S.E.2d 475 (2004); State v. Wilds, 355 S.C. 269, 584 S.E.2d 138 (Ct.App.......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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