U.S. v. BASHAM, NO. 13-9

Decided: June 15, 2015

The Fourth Circuit upheld the District of South Carolina’s denial of Brandon Leon Basham’s (“Basham”) motion for habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.  

This appeal arises from a seventeen day, multi-state, crime spree in November 2002.  Basham was ultimately convicted in the District of South Carolina for multiple crimes and sentenced to death for two of them: carjacking resulting in death and kidnapping resulting in death.  Basham directly appealed his sentence, and the Fourth Circuit upheld his convictions in United States v. Basham, 561 F.3d 302 (4th Cir. 2009).  After the Fourth Circuit upheld his direct appeal, Basham moved for habeas corpus relief pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255 and listed 34 claims for relief.  Two of Basham’s claims for relief were subsequently removed.  The district court denied Basham’s motion on all claims, which he now appeals.  

The Fourth Circuit reviews the appeal de novo and ultimately rejects all grounds for Basham’s appeal and upholds the district court’s ruling.  The Court first rejects Basham’s arguments that he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel because his lawyers permitted him to speak with investigators outside of their presence and later when they failed to challenge the admissibility of his inculpatory statement.  The Court cites Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984), which states that a movant seeking relief for ineffective assistance of counsel must show (1) that his counsel’s performance was deficient, and (2) that the deficiency prejudiced his defense.  The Fourth Circuit found that Basham failed to establish prejudice strong enough to undermine the confidence in the outcome, as required by Strickland.  The Court next rejects Basham’s claims that the prosecution committed misconduct by presenting false testimony.  The Fourth Circuit stated that, to establish prosecutorial misconduct in this manner, a movant “must demonstrate three elements: (1) that the testimony at issue was false; (2) that the prosecution knew or should have known of the falsity; and (3) that a reasonable probability exists that the false testimony may have affected the verdict.”  The district court found that the prosecution did not commit misconduct.  The Fourth Circuit holds that this finding is plausible based on the record, and thus, Basham has failed to establish the first of the required elements to establish prosecutorial misconduct.  The Court next rejects Basham’s challenge to his competency to stand trial and that his counsel was ineffective because they failed to raise any issues regarding his competency.  The Fourth Circuit reasons that the district court’s finding that he was competent to stand trial was not clearly erroneous and must be upheld.  Because the Fourth Circuit upheld that he was competent to stand trial, they also hold that his claims that his ineffective assistance of counsel for failure to raise the issue also lack merit.  The Court rejects Basham’s final challenges by finding that Basham was not denied effective assistance due to trial counsel’s failure to object to evidence about crimes committed against another victim or due to trial counsel’s refusal to deliver his complete file to his appellate lawyers.  In the first instance, the Fourth Circuit found that Basham was unable to show that his counsel performed in a deficient manner merely because counsel allowed evidence to come in for strategic reasons.  In the second instance, the Fourth Circuit concluded that Basham was not prejudiced simply because his counsel would not turn over the original physical copies of the files where they allowed reasonable access to the files.  

Full Opinion

William H. Yarborough

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