Heard April 8, 2015.
Appeal from Spartanburg County. J. Derham Cole, Circuit Court Judge. Appellate Case No. 2013-002001.
Chief Appellate Defender Robert M. Dudek and Appellate Defender David Alexander, both of Columbia, for Petitioner.
Attorney General Alan Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, and Assistant Attorney General Anthony Mabry, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Barry J. Barnette and Assistant Solicitor Russell D. Ghent, both of Spartanburg, for Respondent.
JUSTICE KITTREDGE. BEATTY, HEARN, JJ., and Acting Justice Jean H. Toal, concur. PLEICONES, C.J., dissenting in a separate opinion.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
Petitioner Manuel Antonio Marin was convicted of murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Marin appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed, rejecting his argument that the trial court committed reversible error by refusing to instruct the jury that a person acting in self-defense has the right to continue shooting until the threat has ended. State v. Marin, 404 S.C. 615, 745 S.E.2d 148 (Ct.App. 2013). We issued a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals' decision. We affirm as modified.
On July 20, 2008, both Marin and Nelson Tabares (Victim) attended a Colombian Independence Day festival, followed by an after-party at a Greenville nightclub. According to Christopher McDonald, the nightclub's bouncer, Victim was extremely intoxicated and had difficulty standing and walking, but was not aggressive. Due to Victim's condition, nightclub staff members, including McDonald and owner Larry Rodriquez, determined that it would not be safe for Victim to drive. As a result, McDonald and Rodriquez attempted to find Victim a ride home.
Marin told McDonald that he knew where Victim lived and volunteered to drive Victim home. However, after McDonald helped Victim into the back seat of Marin's vehicle, Marin said that he needed Victim's address so that he could put it in his navigation system. McDonald looked at Victim's identification and gave the address to Marin. Marin, accompanied in the front seat by his former brother-in-law, Alfredo Jimenez, then began driving Victim home.
Marin testified that Victim was unruly and combative during the drive. According to Marin, Victim told him, " I'm sorry, but you got to go," then reached over the backseat and placed him in a headlock. Marin said he then decided not to take Victim home, but to drive to a public location and seek help. Marin further testified that Victim attempted to grab the steering wheel. However, Jimenez stated that Victim became upset and began fighting with Marin over control of the steering wheel after Marin drove past the road on which Victim's home was located and would not stop.
It is undisputed that Marin drove into Spartanburg County, retrieved a gun from the glove compartment, and shot Victim twice in the back of the head. Rather than stopping immediately, Marin continued driving until he arrived in downtown Spartanburg. Several witnesses observed Marin and Jimenez arguing in the street and a passerby called the police.
Marin was subsequently indicted for murder and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime. Marin pleaded not guilty to both charges.
While Marin claimed he shot Victim in self-defense, he did not request any specific language for the self-defense charge at the charge conference, only requesting that the charge include an instruction that he had a right to act on appearances. Further, Marin did not object when, during closing arguments, the State asserted that Marin's firing of two shots was evidence of malice and supported a murder conviction, nor did he ask for any additional instructions before the trial court charged the jury, in relevant part, as follows:
In this case the defendant has . . . raised what is known in the law as the defense of self-defense. The law recognizes the right of every person to defend himself or herself or a friend, relative[,] or another from death or from sustaining serious bodily harm. To do this a person may use such force as is reasonably necessary even to the point of taking human life where such is reasonable.
The right of self-defense is founded upon necessity, either actual or reasonably apparent necessity. And it is a complete defense to a charge of an unlawful homicide should you find that it exists based upon your evaluation of the evidence produced during the trial of this case. The existence of self-defense entitles a person charged with the commission of an unlawful homicide to a verdict of not guilty.
And although the defendant has raised the defense of self-defense, the burden of proof is not on the defendant to prove the existence of self-defense. As I have already told you, the burden is always upon the state to prove the defendant's commission of the crime alleged against him beyond a reasonable doubt. And this would therefore necessarily require that the state prove beyond a reasonable doubt the absence of self-defense.
But in order for you to consider the defense of self-defense you obviously must know what the elements are. And there are four basic elements that are ...