After pleading guilty to multiple charges, petitioner applied for post-conviction relief (PCR), asserting that plea counsel was ineffective for failing to “challenge insufficient indictments” because the meth distribution at issue in two of the charges against petitioner took place near a church playground, which petitioner contends is not a “park” within the meaning of the judgments for distribution of methamphetamine within one-half mile of a park or school. However, petitioner’s plea colloquy shows that he waived his right to presentment of the indictment to the grand jury, which could have dismissed the charges if there was not sufficient evidence to support them.
We affirm the PCR court’s denial of petitioner’s application.
As the PCR court found, the question of whether the proximity charges conform to the applicable statute relates to the sufficiency of the evidence that the state would have presented at trial and does not relate to a defect in the indictment.
Plea counsel testified he believed petitioner was properly indicted. He testified his strategy was “global resolution” because petitioner was facing life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) if he proceeded to trial. Plea counsel employed a valid strategy of avoiding the possibility of an LWOP sentence by negotiating 15- and 10-year concurrent sentences.
Further, petitioner has not shown that but for counsel’s errors, he would not have pled guilty and would have instead gone to trial. Even if petitioner succeeded in gaining an acquittal on the proximity charges, he still faced a mandatory minimum of 25 years and a possible LWOP sentence. Plea counsel testified that petitioner “was wanting to resolve the cases in full.” The overriding concern was gaining a reduction of petitioner’s charges to a second offense, from a third offense, thereby avoiding an LWOP sentence.
Petitioner argues that the proximity convictions may be used to enhance future charges. However, the plea court ensured petitioner was aware of the consequences of the plea at the time it was entered.
Also, petitioner’s other charges would still be used for the future enhancement, so the relief he seeks will serve him no benefit. All of petitioner’s charges were adjudicated in the same plea, so they will only count for one total strike. Therefore, petitioner has not shown that he was prejudiced by plea counsel’s performance.
Jeter v. State (Lawyers Weekly No. 012-007-23, 6 pp.) (Per Curiam) Appealed from Cherokee County Circuit Court (Robin Stilwell, J.) Alonzo Jeter, pro se; Alan Wilson and Chelsey Faith Marto for respondent. S.C. App. Unpub.