An Abbeville man serving a life term in connection with a 2015 shooting appealed his convictions, but the appellate court upheld his life sentence while vacating a five-year sentence on a weapons charge.
Ontavious Derenta Plumer, 31, was arrested in connection with an Oct. 11, 2015 shooting during a drug transaction. Oshamar Wells testified in a three-day trial in 2017 that he had arranged to meet two men and sell them a pound of marijuana, according to court documents. One of the men was Plumer, and instead of going through with the transaction, Wells said in court that Plumer pulled out a gun.
In response, Wells reached for a gun in a cabinet behind him, but he said he was already being shot before he had the chance to return fire, court records said. The third man took the marijuana and all three parted ways, with Wells being treated at a Greenwood hospital for multiple gunshot wounds and Plumer being treated at Greenville Memorial Hospital for a shot to his kneecap.
At trial, Plumer was acquitted on a count of armed robbery but was found guilty of attempted murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime. His appeal, which was heard Feb. 11, 2020, said the trial court made mistakes by not charging the jury on the law of self-defense, by denying his motion to relieve his attorney, by refusing to qualify a defense witness as an expert and by sentencing him to five years’ imprisonment in addition to his life sentence.
In an opinion filed Wednesday, the appellate court disagreed on all but Plumer’s last point. The opinion said there was no evidence from which a jury could infer Plumer was acting in self-defense when he fired his gun — Wells’ testimony consistently said Plumer was the first to draw and fire a gun, and no evidence in the record contradicted that.
Plumer made a motion to relieve his trial attorney, which the trial court shot down, but Plumer argued in his appeal the court should have treated this motion as him asking to represent himself. The appellate court said in its opinion that he didn’t clearly ask to represent himself, instead repeatedly saying he wanted to hire a different lawyer.
During the trial, Plumer tried to have a forensic scientist qualified as an expert witness, but the trial court denied didn’t qualify him as one.
The appellate court’s opinion said Plumer should have requested to have the court hear the witness’ testimony at trial because that’s required to preserve the issue of whether the testimony was properly excluded. Without the excluded evidence on record, the appellate court would not consider whether the court made a mistake by excluding it.
Plumer’s last argument in the appeal was that it was a mistake to sentence him to an additional five years while he was also facing a life sentence without parole. The appeals court agreed and vacated the five-year sentence on the weapons charge.
Plumer is currently incarcerated at Broad River Correctional Institute, where he is serving his life sentence.