South Carolina’s Supreme Court recently ruled that a North Charleston woman legally used deadly force in 2012 when she fatally stabbed her boyfriend at their home. The ruling on May 18, 2016 helps clarify how South Carolina’s “stand your ground” law applies to domestic violence.
In October, 2014, a trial judge in Charleston dismissed a murder charge against 26-year-old Whitlee Jones, who claimed immunity from prosecution under the state’s Protection of Persons and Property Act. The law allows people in certain situations to use force when faced with serious injury.
Whitlee Jones (photo: Cannon Detention Center)
Jones was the first of three North Charleston women charged with murder during a two-year span in the stabbing of a boyfriend or a roommate. Judges dismissed charges against all of them. Read the full story at postandcourier.com
A South Carolina barber with a history of altercations told police he “felt threatened” when he refused service and pulled out a gun on an African-American man who walked into his barbershop for a shave, according to reports.
Rock Hill barber Larry Thomas, 65-years-old, who is white, allegedly pulled out a gun when Arthur Hill, of Fort Mill, a 37-year-old African-American, walked into Thomas’ barbershop on May 11 asking for a quick shave on his way to work.
Instead of offering a chair, Hill said that Thomas responded by holding a .38 caliber revolver in his hand saying, “I don’t do black hair.” Hill retreated from the shop and called the York County Sheriff’s Office.
When police arrived, Thomas reportedly led them to an outside shed and to the gun Hill had described. Thomas is out on bond after being charged with pointing and presenting firearms at a person. In South Carolina the crime is punishable by a fine or up to five years in prison.
“I told him I did not do black hair and he kept coming towards me and I stepped back here and I always keep a gun right here and I just picked up my gun and put my gun at my side,” Thomas told WBTV. The news station found several other reports from the past of Thomas presenting firearms at potential customers.
Thomas also told the station he doesn’t do flat tops or women’s hair styles. He added, “I’m just not good enough to do black hair cutting at all. Being an autistic individual, I pretty much stick to my routine.”
Hill told WCNC, “I was shocked. I was shocked for my life, because I’m thinking that could’ve been me laying on the floor dead. “He did not point it at me, but it was clear in [hind]sight like he meant business. He said, ‘I don’t do black hair.’ I asked him does he shave, can he shave me, and he said, ‘I don’t do black hair.’ ”
Hill says he asked Thomas to clarify why he couldn’t get a cut. “I said, ‘Are you referring to African-American hair?’ He said, ‘Yeah,’ and at the time I noticed he already had his hand gripped on a .38 snub nose chrome revolver.”
As a bill that would expand the state’s stand your ground law stalled in the Senate, the South Carolina Supreme Court has asked legislators to clarify under what circumstances someone can claim self-defense if they kill a stranger or someone else in their home.
They also asked the state lawmakers to determine if all defendants deserve a stand your ground hearing before a trial.
A bill that would shift the burden of proof in a stand your ground case to require prosecutors to prove there was no threat stalled in the state Senate on Thursday, May 19, when a subcommittee decided not to vote on it. The bill would essentially be an expansion of South Carolina’s existing “shoot first” stand your ground law.
Should the burden of proof shift from defendant to prosecutor, it would make it easier for a defendant to prove self-defense.
A jury today could not reach a verdict, resulting in a mistrial for an alleged South Carolina gang member who claimed stand your ground in the murder of 17-year Chester City Council veteran Odell Williams. The stand your ground motion was denied on Monday (April 18).
19-year-old Christopher Moore said he felt threatened, feared for his life, and in self-defense fired up to 18 shots from a rifle that killed Williams on November 4, 2014.
Moore is one of five men – along with Terrance Buchanan, Derrick Dixon, Quinton McClinton, and DeAngelo Roseboro – all with felony records – involved with gunning down 79 year-old council member Williams after the politician-church deacon-football and baseball coach followed them.
After all the men were arrested, Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood said police had received death threats from gang members, and declared a “war on gangs in Chester” .
Why Williams followed the men, and why he didn’t call police, is unknown, but guns create an environment of empowerment. Each side is entitled to their 2nd Amendment right to defend himself.
In October 2014, near Williams’ home and concrete business, a house belonging to a rival gang had been hit with gunfire. On Nov. 4, the five suspects were in a truck parked near the business “with the intention of committing armed robbery” against the “rival gang house,” 6th Circuit assistant solicitor Julie Hall said.
Moore testified that he and his boys had been smoking marijuana and scheming on the rival gang because of a drug deal gone bad. Williams’ wife saw the suspects parked in the truck near the business and called him.
Odell Williams, painted by defense attorneys as an ex-cop with a vigilante attitude, retired from the Chester Police Department in 1997. Before his death, he was indicted for allegedly threatening to kill the city’s police chief in a city hall restroom in March, 2014. He faced up to 5 years in jail and a $5000 fine had he been convicted.
When his wife called, Williams arrived and went after the gang as they rode off. During a three-mile chase, at speeds of up to 70 mph, Williams reportedly fired gunshots at the truck. It is unclear whether police found any shell casings in Williams car, or gunshot residue on his hand.
At some point during the chase, unbeknownst to Williams, Moore exited the truck (he testified that he “fell” out of the truck). When Williams drove up, Moore allegedly opened fire.
In his first interviews with investigators, Moore denied any involvement with the murder, claiming he was elsewhere at the time. In court during the trial, he admitted firing the weapon, but claimed it was in self-defense.
A jury was selected and seated for a trial which began Tuesday (April 19), but did not get to hear Moore’s testimony at Monday’s stand your ground hearing, when he said he did not intend to kill Williams.
After three days of testimony, the jury began deliberations on April 22, 2016 but could not reach a unanimous verdict by the next day, resulting in a mistrial.
Statement issued by the family of 17-year-old Darrell Niles regarding the court decision on stand your ground immunity hearing for Shannon Scott (courtesy WISTV.com):
“As a family, we have waited patiently, quietly and painfully for the last three years. We even remained silent, painful, yet hopeful during the Zimmerman case. We did not come this far not to receive justice for Darrell. We know that there is nothing we can do to bring Darrell back, but we will now speak on behalf of all innocent bystanders.
We were present in court every day and heard every statement. We are appalled by the judges decision. The 4 teenagers that testified on Shannon Scott’s behalf, gave 4 different stories. After each of their testimonies, it was revealed that each of them changed their stories from three years ago (statements were read aloud in court).
Please, please, please understand that there are so many details being left out. Kudos to Todd Rutherford for being a good lawyer. However, Shannon Scott’s roommate and his girlfriend testified that Shannon came into his room, grabbed his gun without telling them to get down or about any threat and immediately walked outside shooting. They testified that the first shot was close to the house and happened immediately after Shannon went out of his front door. They said the second shot was far off. This matches the statement (read in court) given by the shooter in the car of so called “women thugs”. She said she wanted the person that was shooting at her to know that she also had a gun, so she shot back.
As Rutherford mentioned on WIS news, the young lady did give a statement to police stating that she was going to shoot Shannon’s house up, but Rutherford failed to mention that her sentence ended in “after someone shot at me, but my friends talked me out of it.” She felt the need to defend herself.
Prior to this case, Shannon had no knowledge that the girls planned to shoot at his home. He found out in court and Mr. Rutherford capitalized on it in his closing statement to paint a picture that did not happen. Even the 911 call made by Shannon’s wife, at the time girlfriend, which was played in court said, “there is a white SUV full of girls parked at Allstate”. She stated that Shannon heard her say this. So, how did he end up shooting a red Honda that contained two boys?
The young man riding with Darrell also testified that Shannon shot first. He saw him walk out and start shooting. He also testified of a second shot that was far off. The 911 call gave details on where the girls were (parked at Allstate…a few houses down and two the right of Shannon’s home) and pictures revealed where my Darrell’s car ended (pictures shown in court….like two houses down and to the left of Shannon’s home). That doesn’t make for an off shot. That makes for bad judgement.
Shannon also testified that he saw the vehicle that posed a threat come down the street with it’s headlights off. Pictures shown revealed that Darrell’s headlights were on. Nonetheless, this man was shooting at kids.
Yes, teenagers can pose a threat and we understand wanting to protect your child, but by any means necessary and without judgement?!? There was a sign at his home that said, “Shoot first. Ask questions later.” He did exactly that. Regardless of what his lawyer wants people to believe, Shannon shot first. He created the biggest threat and took an innocent bystanders life. He shot at a car that had the windows up (pictures shown in court). That is not standing your ground.
We understand that the stand your ground law has caused an uproar in our nation at this time, but we do not feel as if it is applicable to this case. We hope and pray that the Supreme Court would allow this case to go to trial. We are confident in the facts. Not the painted picture of Rutherford, who helped write the stand your ground law. Thanks to everyone in support of justice in this case. We thank you. We solicit your prayers. One thing is for sure, facts do not lie!!“
It was after midnight, on April 18, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina. Darrell Niles, 17, a basketball player at Keenan High, only wanted to make sure a group of girls made it home from a club OK after a Saturday night out. He got into his 1992 Honda to follow the girls home. But he didn’t make it home himself.
Shannon Scott, 33, got a call from his 15-year-old daughter, one of the girls. She said they were being threatened by a group of other teens – (described in testimony as “women thugs”) – and that they were following her.
When Scott’s daughter and her friends got to his house, he reportedly told them to get to the kitchen, on the floor, as gunshots were allegedly fired at the home. Then, Scott came out armed with a .380 caliber gun, opening fire on the first thing he saw.
Darrell Niles, who was not armed, was shot and killed instantly as he sat in his car across the street. Scott, from his home, was shooting at where he presumably thought the shots at his home had come from – Darrell Niles’ car.
A report by thestate.com said Scott had a “Shoot First” sign hanging in his window at the time of the shooting. Was he one of millions of itchy-fingered undercover vigilantes? He didn’t immediately take responsibility when Darrell Niles was the fourth young man found dead in a car in Columbia during the first four months of 2010, although this one was right across the street from his home. Scott turned himself in and was arrested three days later, on April 21.
Now, over three years later and after a three-day immunity hearing before Judge Maite Murphy, Scott is free of all charges, successfully claiming stand your ground immunity, under South Carolina’s version of stand your ground law – the state’s 2006 Protection of Persons and Property Act. Scott claimed he was defending his family. Prosecutors plan to file appeals with the state Supreme Court.
His attorney is South Carolina State Representative Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia). More disturbing may be the fact that this case may be the first time in the United States that someone who killed an innocent bystander is not charged with their death – and the first time due to stand your ground – setting a dangerous precedent for future bystander shootings by someone claiming stand your ground.
Rutherford argued at the immunity hearing that someone can’t be expected to shoot straight in a life or death situation.
Under South Carolina’s law, people have the right to use deadly force against an assailant. However, the law doesn’t specifically say a person using deadly force can kill a bystander by mistake and be immune from any criminal prosecution.
A senate bill in Florida , which just gained Judiciary Committee approval last week, would limit the aggressor’s (immune person’s) liability only to the victim, but they could still be charged with a bystander’s death.
A “collateral damage” stand your ground bystander incident in Florida killed 9 year old Sherdavia Jenkins as she played outside her home in 2006, caught in the middle of a shootout over drugs. The shooter claimed stand your ground. At trial, a jury rejected second-degree murder and attempted murder charges (he was later convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 5o years).
This issue must be addressed now – in every state that has self defense laws, particularly as it pertains to shooting and killing or injuring a bystander from within your own property.
The loopholes that exist within each state’s SYG self-defense laws vary from state to state, and there are several subtle but very dangerous avenues for a conspirator or perpetrator – whether intentional or not – to take advantage of the law, though they could still be charged with a bystander’s death.
At the very least, stand your ground laws must be changed, because the utmost utterly disturbing fact in all of this is something Scott’s attorney, Todd Rutherford pointed out during the immunity hearing: Darrell Niles was “in the wrong place at the wrong time”.