State v. Inman, No. 27081.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
PartiesThe STATE, Respondent, v. Jerry Buck INMAN, Appellant.
Decision Date25 January 2012
Docket NumberNo. 27081.

395 S.C. 539
720 S.E.2d 31

The STATE, Respondent,
v.
Jerry Buck INMAN, Appellant.

No. 27081.

Supreme Court of South Carolina.

Heard Sept. 21, 2011.Decided Dec. 28, 2011.Rehearing Denied Jan. 25, 2012.


[720 S.E.2d 33]

Chief Appellate Defender Robert M. Dudek, and Senior Appellate Defender Joseph L. Savitz, III, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, of Columbia, and Solicitor

[720 S.E.2d 34]

William Walter Wilkins, III, of Greenville, for Respondent.

Justice BEATTY.

[395 S.C. 544] In this capital case, Jerry Buck Inman pleaded guilty to the murder, first-degree burglary, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and kidnapping of a Clemson University student. The judge sentenced Inman to death for murder and two consecutive thirty-year sentences for first-degree burglary and first-degree criminal sexual conduct.1

On appeal, Inman challenges the judge's acceptance of his guilty plea as he contends it was conditional in that defense counsel maintained Inman was entitled to be sentenced by a jury despite his plea of guilty.2 Additionally, Inman asserts the judge erred in addressing his allegations of prosecutorial misconduct arising out of the Solicitor's treatment of the defense's expert witness during the sentencing proceedings. Specifically, Inman claims the judge erred in the following respects: (1) refusing to recuse the Solicitor's Office from any further involvement in the case; (2) declining defense counsel's request to question the Solicitor on the issue of prosecutorial misconduct; and (3) declining to grant a mistrial despite a finding of prosecutorial misconduct. We affirm Inman's guilty plea and sentences.

I. Factual/Procedural Background
A.

On the evening of May 25, 2006, Tiffany Marie Souers (the Victim), a rising junior at Clemson University, was alone in her off-campus apartment as her roommates were gone for the day. When one of her roommates returned to the apartment during the afternoon of May 26, 2006, she discovered the Victim's partially-clad body on the bedroom floor. An autopsy revealed the Victim had been sexually assaulted and died as the result of asphyxia due to ligature strangulation with a bathing suit top.

[395 S.C. 545] Surveillance photographs taken during the early morning hours of May 26, 2006 captured a male, whose face was covered by a bandana, attempting to use the Victim's ATM card at two different bank machines in Clemson.

On June 5, 2006, law enforcement was able to identify Inman as the Victim's perpetrator based on DNA evidence obtained from the crime scene and processed through the National DNA Database, which had Inman's DNA evidence on file due to his prior out-of-state convictions for sexual offenses in 1987 and 1988. Using this information, law enforcement conducted a well-publicized nationwide search for Inman. On June 6, 2006 at approximately 11:45 p.m., law enforcement apprehended Inman in Dandridge, Tennessee.

Shortly after his arrest, Inman orally confessed to the crimes involving the Victim. Within the course of the next three hours, Inman gave separate written statements to an agent with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and to agents with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). In these two statements, Inman again confessed to the charged crimes and recounted in detail the events underlying these crimes. When asked to sign these statements, Inman declined and stated “we still have to go to court.”

Ultimately, Inman was extradited to South Carolina and detained in the Pickens County Detention Center where a DNA sample was taken from him and again conclusively matched to the DNA evidence recovered from the Victim and her apartment. Subsequently, a Pickens County grand jury indicted Inman for murder, kidnapping, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and first-degree burglary. The Thirteenth Circuit Solicitor's Office timely served Inman with its intent to seek the death penalty.3

[720 S.E.2d 35]

After a circuit court judge determined that Inman was competent to stand trial,4 defense counsel filed a motion to determine the mode of trial. In the motion, counsel informed the judge of Inman's intent to enter a guilty plea to the crimes and demand a jury trial for sentencing. After a hearing, the judge summarily denied the motion on the ground he was [395 S.C. 546] “constrained by the existing case law in South Carolina and the statutes.”

B.

On August 19, 2008, Inman pleaded guilty to murder, first-degree criminal sexual conduct, first-degree burglary, and kidnapping. During the plea colloquy, the judge informed Inman of the charges, the maximum possible sentences, and the constitutional rights that he was waiving by pleading guilty, including the right to a jury trial. Although Inman indicated he understood these rights, defense counsel interjected that Inman should be entitled to enter a guilty plea and then proceed to a jury trial for sentencing. In response, the judge informed Inman that he could not enter a plea “conditioned” on the preservation of the jury trial issue. Inman stated that he understood and still wished to plead guilty. Inman then admitted his guilt and expressed satisfaction with his defense counsel. Subsequently, Solicitor Robert M. Ariail (the Solicitor) presented a factual basis for the charged offenses that consisted of a stipulated summary of the facts.

When the judge resumed questioning Inman, he again inquired whether Inman understood that by pleading guilty he was waiving his right to have a jury sentence him for the murder conviction. Inman responded in the affirmative. Defense counsel, however, reiterated that Inman should not have to waive the right to have a jury determine his sentence. He emphasized that he “just want [ed] to make sure [the issue] is preserved.”

In response, the judge again explained to Inman that he could not accept a “conditional guilty plea.” The judge also instructed that he could not determine whether the jury sentencing issue was preserved for appellate review as it was a decision for the South Carolina Supreme Court. Inman indicated that he understood the judge's explanation and expressed his desire to continue the plea proceeding. The judge accepted Inman's plea and instructed that the sentencing proceeding would be held on September 8, 2008.

The Solicitor then expressed his concern that defense counsel's statements about the preservation of an appellate issue effectively made the plea conditional. Defense counsel disputed[395 S.C. 547] the conditional nature of the plea, but assured Inman that the “issue is preserved and will survive the guilty plea.”

Based on this exchange, the judge debated whether to accept Inman's plea, but ultimately asked Inman whether his plea was “dependent” on the jury sentencing issue. After conferring with defense counsel, Inman acknowledged that his plea was not based on whether he would succeed on an issue raised on appeal. Inman stated, “I just want to enter the plea and get it over with, just go on from here with the sentencing phase.”

At the conclusion of the plea colloquy, the judge accepted Inman's plea and found that it was freely, knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently made.

C.

On September 8, 2008, the judge commenced the non-jury sentencing proceeding. In presenting its case for statutory aggravating circumstances, the State called two of the law enforcement officers to whom Inman confessed to the charged crimes. Additionally, Dr. Eric Dean Christensen, the forensic pathologist who conducted the Victim's autopsy, certified the Victim's death was caused by “asphyxia due to ligature strangulation.” He further testified that there was “extensive bruising” on the Victim's body, which he believed was consistent with a physical struggle and the Victim being restrained. He also found physical evidence that suggested “traumatic sexual relations.”

In terms of Inman's criminal history, the State offered extensive evidence of Inman's prior convictions in Florida and North Carolina as well as evidence of two unadjudicated

[720 S.E.2d 36]

incidents that occurred after Inman was released from the Florida Department of Corrections on September 1, 2005.

Subsequently, defense counsel initiated the case for mitigation. As the defense's first expert witness, counsel called Dr. David Richard Price, a forensic psychologist/neuropsychologist and clinical psychologist, who interviewed Inman and reviewed records regarding Inman's family, his prior crimes, his terms of incarceration, and his mental health records.

[395 S.C. 548] Based on these records, Dr. Price concluded that Inman suffered from the following: major depressive disorder, recurrent type; major depressive disorder with psychotic features; bipolar disorder; psychorhythmic disorder; schizoid personality disorder; dissociative identity disorder; and sexual paraphilia. In making these diagnoses, Dr. Price took into account Inman's extensive psychiatric history and his childhood, which included “pretty significant” records indicating that Inman had been sexually abused, physically abused, grew up in a “very unstable environment,” suffered with a mother who was schizophrenic and an alcoholic father, began using drugs at an early age, and was incarcerated at age seventeen. Dr. Price also testified that Inman had attempted suicide on seven occasions, six of which occurred while he was incarcerated. He further stated that Inman believed the death penalty was the appropriate punishment for the murder of the Victim. Ultimately, Dr. Price opined that Inman committed the crimes against the Victim while he was under the influence of a mental and emotional disturbance and that his capacity to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law was substantially impaired.

Defense counsel next called Dr. Marti Loring, a Georgia-licensed clinical social worker and board certified expert in traumatic stress who...

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29 practice notes
  • Moore v. Stirling, 28088
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...hit with a heavy vase and a mirror, and generalized beating and cutting," all resulting in over 200 wounds to his body); State v. Inman, 395 S.C. 539, 544, 720 S.E.2d 31, 34 (2011) (finding a death sentence proportional where the defendant pled guilty to murder, first-degree burglary, first......
  • Lawrence v. State, No. SC18-2061
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • October 29, 2020
    ...(2018), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 822, 202 L.Ed.2d 599 (2019) ; S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-25(C)(3) (2020) ; State v. Inman , 395 S.C. 539, 720 S.E.2d 31, 46 (2011) ; S.D. Codified Laws § 23A-27A-12(3) (2020) ; State v. Piper , 842 N.W.2d 338, 347-48 (S.D. 2014) ; Tenn. Code Ann. ......
  • Moore v. Stirling, Appellate Case No. 2020-001519
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...hit with a heavy vase and a mirror, and generalized beating and cutting," all resulting in over 200 wounds to his body); State v. Inman , 395 S.C. 539, 544, 720 S.E.2d 31, 34 (2011) (finding a death sentence proportional where the defendant pled guilty to murder, first-degree burglary, firs......
  • State v. Smith, Appellate Case No. 2015-001905
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 15, 2018
    ...S.E.2d at 627–28. "A mistrial should only be granted when absolutely necessary." Id. at 63, 530 S.E.2d at 628 ; see also State v. Inman , 395 S.C. 539, 565, 720 S.E.2d 31, 45 (2011) ("The granting of a motion for a mistrial is an extreme measure that should be taken only when the incident i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
29 cases
  • Moore v. Stirling, 28088
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...hit with a heavy vase and a mirror, and generalized beating and cutting," all resulting in over 200 wounds to his body); State v. Inman, 395 S.C. 539, 544, 720 S.E.2d 31, 34 (2011) (finding a death sentence proportional where the defendant pled guilty to murder, first-degree burglary, first......
  • Lawrence v. State, No. SC18-2061
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • October 29, 2020
    ...(2018), cert. denied , ––– U.S. ––––, 139 S. Ct. 822, 202 L.Ed.2d 599 (2019) ; S.C. Code Ann. § 16-3-25(C)(3) (2020) ; State v. Inman , 395 S.C. 539, 720 S.E.2d 31, 46 (2011) ; S.D. Codified Laws § 23A-27A-12(3) (2020) ; State v. Piper , 842 N.W.2d 338, 347-48 (S.D. 2014) ; Tenn. Code Ann. ......
  • Moore v. Stirling, Appellate Case No. 2020-001519
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
    • April 6, 2022
    ...hit with a heavy vase and a mirror, and generalized beating and cutting," all resulting in over 200 wounds to his body); State v. Inman , 395 S.C. 539, 544, 720 S.E.2d 31, 34 (2011) (finding a death sentence proportional where the defendant pled guilty to murder, first-degree burglary, firs......
  • State v. Smith, Appellate Case No. 2015-001905
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • August 15, 2018
    ...S.E.2d at 627–28. "A mistrial should only be granted when absolutely necessary." Id. at 63, 530 S.E.2d at 628 ; see also State v. Inman , 395 S.C. 539, 565, 720 S.E.2d 31, 45 (2011) ("The granting of a motion for a mistrial is an extreme measure that should be taken only when the incident i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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