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State v. Jefferson

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

March 7, 2017


          Heard in the Court of Appeals 24 January 2017.

          Appeal by Defendant from judgment entered 29 February 2016 by Judge Stanley L. Allen in Rockingham County, No. 10CRS231 Superior Court.

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney General Jonathan P. Babb, for the State.

          The Phillips Black Project, by John R. Mills, for Defendant-appellant.

          HUNTER, JR., Robert N., Judge.

         Shymel D. Jefferson ("Defendant") appeals his sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after a term of twenty-five years, alleging the statute mandating his sentence violates the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution pursuant to Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, 183 L.Ed.2d 407 (2012). After review, we disagree.

         I. Facts and Background

         On 25 January 2010, Defendant-then fifteen years old-was charged by petition with first-degree murder in Rockingham County Juvenile Court. Pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2200, which requires the juvenile court to transfer any defendant accused of a Class A felony to superior court, the case was transferred to Rockingham County Superior Court. On 8 February 2010, Defendant was indicted for the first-degree murder of Timothy Seay. The case was brought to trial on 29 May 2012. This Court summarized the facts as presented at trial in State v. Jefferson, No. 13-668, 2014 N.C.App. LEXIS 256 ( N.C. Ct. App. Mar. 4, 2014) (unpublished).

On the night of 6 November 2009, defendant, Travis Brown, Shaquan Beamer ("Beamer"), and defendant's older cousin, Shavon Reid ("Shavon"), went to the Icehouse, a bar in Eden, North Carolina. Defendant was fifteen years old at this time and had been living with Shavon in Martinsville, Virginia. Prior to the night in question, defendant had begun carrying a pistol for protection. He brought the gun with him to the Icehouse but left it in the car when the group went inside.
At the Icehouse, defendant encountered Jason Gallant ("Gallant"), Timothy Seay ("Seay"), and Terris Dandridge ("Dandridge"). After about an hour in the bar, a fistfight broke out. Defendant, Dandridge, and Gallant were all involved; defendant and Dandridge were seen pushing each other. The fight was quickly broken up by bar security, and both groups were forced to go outside. Defendant left the bar and retrieved his gun from the car.
Once the crowd had moved into the street, Seay's group began taunting defendant's group. Defendant testified that he heard a gunshot during the encounter. He then fired his gun in the direction of the group of people where he thought the shot had come from until he ran out of bullets. Devin Turner, a witness to the incident, testified that the only people he saw firing were defendant and Shavon. Ultimately, two people were injured and one was killed as a result of the shooting. Gallant and Dandridge were wounded by gunshots to the wrist and leg, respectively. Seay was killed by a gunshot wound to the head and was also shot one time in the chest, with the bullet getting lodged in his shoulder. Police later recovered two types of shell casings from the scene - .40 caliber and .380. Expert testimony established that the nine .380 casings found at the scene and the bullet in Seay's shoulder were fired from defendant's gun.

Jefferson, 2014 N.C.App. LEXIS 256 at *2-3. At trial, the medical examiner testified Seay was killed by the gunshot wound to his head, which involved a larger caliber bullet than the gunshot wound to his chest. The jury found Defendant guilty of first-degree murder under the felony-murder rule. On 8 June 2012, under then-applicable state law, the trial court sentenced Defendant to a mandatory term of life without the possibility of parole.

         During the pendency of Defendant's appeal, the United States Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama, holding "mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments.'" 132 S.Ct. at 2460, 183 L.Ed.2d 407, 414-15. In response, the General Assembly enacted N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1340.19B, which provided, inter alia, the sentence for a defendant found guilty of first-degree murder solely under the felony murder rule shall be life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1340.19B(a)(1) (2015). Jefferson, 2014 N.C.App. LEXIS 256 at *6-7. A defendant sentenced under this act must serve a minimum of twenty-five years before becoming eligible for parole. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-1340.19A (2015).

         As a result, this Court overturned Defendant's sentence on appeal and remanded to the trial court for resentencing pursuant to § 15A-1340.19B. Jefferson, 2014 N.C.App. LEXIS 256 at *6-7. On 29 February 2016, the trial court held resentencing proceedings, and imposed a sentence of life with the ...

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