Two high-profile shooting cases in the Columbia area that have little in common other than geography and tragic collateral damage are generating concerns that South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground law, part of the Protections of Persons and Property Act, will turn Columbia into the Mogadishu of the Midlands, a free-fire zone.
The outcry has been seen on social media and in the comments sections of news websites, as well as in Kevin Fisher’s Oct. 16 City Watch column for Free Times, to the irritation of some attorneys we spoke to this week. They called the fears unfounded and born of limited legal knowledge.
The first case involved a father, Shannon Scott, who, according to The State’s John Monk, fatally shot an unarmed high school student as the boy sat alone in a parked car across the street. The father was responding to shots allegedly fired at or near his home by female students who had terrorized his daughter. Under Stand Your Ground, a judge granted the father immunity from prosecution because “he reasonably believed he was being attacked with deadly force directed at his home.”
Then, on Oct. 13 on Harden Street in Five Points, Michael Juan Smith, a 20- or 21-year-old black male, a felon, shot Martha Childress, a white freshman at the University of South Carolina. She was not his target, but she was paralyzed.
Shortly afterward, Fisher wrote: “When it comes to the thug who (allegedly) fired the shot, almost taking the life of 18-year-old Martha Childress and forever changing it, a recent and ridiculous South Carolina circuit court ruling could actually provide him a legal defense under the state’s Stand Your Ground law,” referring to the Scott case.
The Childress’ attorney, Joe McCulloch — who usually works as a defense attorney — called Free Times last week, echoing Fisher’s concern. He says the state legislature should remove Stand Your Ground language from the law and reassert the citizen’s duty to avoid provocation and retreat when possible and to employ proportionate force against a perceived threat — meaning one shouldn’t take a gun to a knife fight.
“There are a lot of people who believe that when they walk out of their front door or walk down Main Street that, if somebody threatens them, they ought to be allowed to kill them without any duty to try to avoid a problem,” McCulloch said.
Several other defense attorneys approached by Free Times scoffed at such a suggestion. Eventually, Luke Shealey, a former Richland County public defender now in private practice with considerable Stand Your Ground experience, agreed to address the matter on the record.
“It is a tragic situation but I don’t know if you can jump ahead and say, ‘This guy is going to get off scot-free because of Stand Your Ground, so we need to do away with Stand Your Ground,” he said, adding that George Zimmerman’s attorney’s never even employed Stand Your Ground in his defense in the Trayvon Martin case, despite all the media hype over it.
To Shealey, the two cases’ stark differences, which make a successful Stand Your Ground claim unlikely, are readily apparent: Scott was on his own property; Smith was partying in Five Points while unlawfully possessing a weapon. Scott heard a gunshot, reasonable indication he faced a deadly threat; Smith parent’s told the press that their son had been taunted.
The bottom line, Shealey says, is that guys carrying weapons around town unlawfully are not concerned with Stand Your Ground. “We should not as citizens, in my opinion, lose our fundamental right to protect ourselves because of a few bad apples that are highly publicized.”
Four Miles, Twelve Doughnuts
Winston’s Wish aims to increase knowledge and understanding of children with autism, and you can help by participating in the 4.donut Race on October 25th. Start at Edventure Children’s Museum, run 2 miles to Krispy Kreme, eat 12 doughnuts, and run back! Registration is required and can be done here before October 23rd at 5 p.m.
The Other Place at Trustus Theatre
Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. A mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present and the elusive truth of Juliana’s mental health boils to the surface in The Other Place, running at Trustus Theatre October 17th through November 1st. There will be a talk-back following the matinee on October 19th. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at 803-254-9732.
King Lear in Finlay Park
October 16th-18th and 22nd-25th, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s King Lear. All performances held at the Finlay Park Ampitheatre at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, click here or call 803-665-2000.
Bluegrass, Bidding, and BBQ
Join The Palladium Society Thursday, October 23rd from 7-10 p.m. for its 11th annual silent auction, featuring music by The Mustache Brothers and catering by Bourbon and The Oak Table. Tickets are $30 at the door and include admission, drinks, and food. Get yours online now!
3LAU on Sunday, October 26th and the Unofficial Skrillex Mothership Tour After-Party on the 27th. More information and tickets for both can be found here. VIP tables available.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Cupcake now hiring a closing manager. Must be outgoing, customer service focused, able to work evenings and weekends. Apply in person. 1213 Lincoln Street, Columbia SC 29201. freshcupcakes.com
Local business is searching for new associates who are looking for a fun environment to earn great wages. Great position for college students/recent graduates. Must be well-mannered with excellent customer service skills/work ethic/ability to lift heavy items/must have valid Driver’s License. Call 803-376-4884 or email resume: email@example.com.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Real Estate Spotlight
BB&T Home Mortgage Sharing knowledge with satisfied homeowners. BBT.com/Mortgage
Capital Kitchen & Bath One stop solution for all your remodeling & new construction needs. CAPITALKB.COM
Mungo Homes. Celebrating 60 years of our family building for your family. mungo.com
The Lake Carolina new home community has it all! 1 YMCA, 3 pools, 10 parks, 20+ community events each year, and much more! Learn more. www.lakecarolina.com
AVSX TECHNOLOGIES Your Home Is The Heart Of Your Family, Are You Protecting It? WWW.AVSX.COM
SC HousingFinancing Housing. Building SC. To find out if you qualify or for more information visit schousing.com