COLUMBIA — The South Carolina Court of Appeals has reversed a decision from 2nd Judicial Circuit Judge Doyet “Jack” Early, which had awarded post-conviction relief to a man accused of kidnapping and raping a woman in Denmark, S.C., nearly 10 years ago.
The circuit court had granted Joseph Walker’s post-conviction relief application based on missteps by his attorney, who failed to investigate Walker’s girlfriend, a potential alibi witness. Walker had said he was with his girlfriend at the time the other woman said he had kidnapped and repeatedly raped her at his home.
In its reversal, the Court of Appeals agreed that Walker’s counsel had not served him properly. But that wasn’t enough to cause prejudice, according to Wednesday’s appeals court decision. The decision stemmed from the state’s appeal, which was heard in October.
A cross-examination of Walker’s girlfriend showed she could not say for sure that she was with Walker the night of the crime.
The victim had testified that on March 2, 2002, she asked for help at a BP gas station in Denmark when her car had broken down. A man fixed her car with a wire he bought nearby for $30, according to Wednesday’s published decision.
The woman told the man to follow her home so she could pay him. She said the man entered her home uninvited, blindfolded her, drove her to his house, and raped her throughout the night. The next morning the man blindfolded her again, drove her home, and said he would kill her if she told anyone. A few hours after she got home, she testified, she drank a rum and Coke to calm her nerves.
The woman identified a man in the surveillance videotape from the BP station as her attacker and kidnapper. The BP store manager then identified him as Walker.
Police matched the woman’s descriptions of her attacker’s truck and house with Walker’s truck and house, according to Wednesday’s decision. Walker was arrested 20 days later and eventually convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping.
The trial court sentenced him to 24 years in prison, and Wednesday’s appeals court decision affirms Walker’s convictions and sentences.