SC Supreme Court Grants Relief to Deported Jamaican Citizen

Gregg Taylor v. State (No. 2015-001118)

This is a post-conviction relief (PCR) matter in which Petitioner Gregg Taylor, a Jamaican citizen, pled guilty to a drug offense. Taylor resided in South Carolina for years with his wife and two children, all three of whom are United States citizens. In plea negotiations, Taylor’s primary concern was whether he would be subject to deportation. Plea counsel viewed Taylor’s grave concern with the prospect of deportation as a “collateral” issue, yet provided general assurances to Taylor that he would not be deported. As a result, Taylor pled guilty. The drug offense resulted in Taylor’s deportation. Taylor filed a PCR action, and the PCR court denied relief. The Supreme Court now reverses the PCR court.

The Court finds that counsel’s actual advice on the deportation issue was deficient as a matter of law. Counsel did inform Taylor he could face deportation, but counsel failed to adviseTaylor that his deportation was presumptively mandatory. The Court notes that counsel must do more than “discuss immigration” or advise Taylor he might face adverse immigration consequences. The Court further finds that Taylor “has demonstrated a reasonable probability that, but for [his] counsel’s errors, he would not have pleaded guilty and would have insisted on going to trial.”

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