SUMTER, SC (WIS) - The South Carolina Court of Appeals reversed a murder and armed robbery conviction and has called for a retrial of a man serving life in prison in connection with the 2008 slaying of a pizza delivery driver in Sumter County.
Attorneys for Daniel Deangelo Jackson successfully argued state prosecutors improperly admitted statements of another man also convicted in the crime.
Jackson and Reginald Canty were both convicted of the armed robbery and murder of Sambino's Pizza delivery driver William Flexon, 46, in August, 2011.
Prosecutors said the duo placed a bogus phone call for a pizza delivery to the O.C. Mobile Home Park in the Cherryvale area of Sumter on the night of January 12, 2008. When Flexon arrived to a vacant mobile home, Jackson allegedly gunned Flexon down and ran off with the pizza but left money in the victim's pocket.
Officers discovered Canty walking nearby shortly after the shooting. He was questioned and charged with murder and armed robbery. Jackson later turned himself in on the same charges.
Prosecutors used Canty's redacted statements about the night of the murder in court, but did not place the alleged co-conspirator on the stand. At the close of the State's case, Jackson's attorney moved for a mistrial on the basis that admitting Canty's statements violated his client's right to confront and cross-examine Canty. The trial court denied Jackson's motion.
The Court of Appeals has decided the state's admission of Canty's statements did violate Jackson's right of confrontation under the Sixth Amendment.
"We acknowledge the remaining evidence tending to establish Jackson's guilt is strong," the court wrote in a 23 page opinion. "However, the evidence is purely circumstantial, and we do not believe this 'properly admitted evidence of guilt is so overwhelming, and the prejudicial effect of the codefendant's admission is so insignificant by comparison, that it is clear beyond a reasonable doubt that the improper use of the admission was harmless error.'"
Jackson was serving life in prison without the chance of parole.
Canty is serving 30 years in prison for the crimes. He is scheduled to be released in February, 2038.