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State v. Inman

Supreme Court of South Carolina

June 18, 2014

The State, Respondent,
v.
Damien Inman, Appellant

Heard March 4, 2014.

Appeal From Dillon County. Appellate Case No. 2011-193887. Thomas A. Russo, Circuit Court Judge.

Appellate Defender Susan Barber Hackett, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, all of Columbia, and Solicitor William B. Rogers, Jr., of Bennettsville, for Respondent.

CHIEF JUSTICE TOAL. BEATTY, KITTREDGE and HEARN, JJ., concur. PLEICONES, J., concurring in result only.

OPINION

Page 106

[409 S.C. 22] TOAL, CHIEF JUSTICE:

Damien Inman (Appellant) was convicted and sentenced to life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for the robbery, [409 S.C. 23] kidnapping, and murder of Mary Alice Stutts.[1] Appellant was seventeen years old at the time of the crimes. On appeal, Appellant challenges his convictions on several bases, including that the circuit court improperly granted the State's motion pursuant to Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79, 106 S.Ct. 1712, 90 L.Ed.2d 69 (1986), after Appellant offered a race-neutral explanation for striking a particular juror. We reverse and remand the case for a new trial.

Facts/Procedural Background

Prior to the start of Appellant's trial, the circuit court required the State and Appellant to select three separate juries to hear Appellant's case due to Appellant's alleged racial bias in exercising his peremptory strikes. For example, during the first jury

Page 107

selection, not including strikes for alternate jurors, Appellant used his peremptory strikes against seven white jurors and two black jurors, and the State raised Batson challenges to six of the seven white jurors struck by Appellant.

One of these six jurors was Juror 60, a white male self-employed as a farmer. Appellant's counsel explained that she struck Juror 60 based on his occupation:

[APPELLANT'S COUNSEL]: In terms of [Juror] 60, he's a farmer. Your Honor, just in terms of education. Forensics is ...

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