United States v. Fulks, No. 11-3

Decided: June 26, 2012

In this case, the Fourth Circuit rejected Chardrick Evan Fulks’ effort to vacate his death penalty sentence for his involvement in the abduction and murder of Alice Donovan in South Carolina on November 14, 2002.

Fugitives from a Kentucky prison, Fulks and his associate Brandon Basham committed a number of heinous crimes as they traveled through the eastern United States.  Fulks pled guilty to all counts and a federal jury recommended the death sentence on the convictions of carjacking resulting in death under 18 U.S.C. § 2119(3) and kidnapping resulted in death under 18 U.S.C. § 1201.  The District Court of South Carolina imposed the capital sentence, and the Fourth Circuit upheld it in a 2004 opinion.  Subsequently, Fulks filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to vacate his conviction and sentence and to request a new trial.  Section 2255 allows a federal prisoner to challenge his conviction and sentence on the basis that his constitutional rights were infringed.

On appeal the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of Fulk’s motion.  The court denied Fulk’s claim that his defense counsel had been unconstitutionally ineffective both at the sentencing stage and on his first appeal to the Fourth Circuit.  The court examined the defense counsel’s strategy of having Fulks plead guilty without securing a quid pro quo from the government and held that this tactic was reasonable in light of the overwhelming evidence against Fulks and the possible use of the guilty pleas as a mitigating factor for sentencing.

Full Opinion

John C. Bruton, III

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