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State v. Manning

Supreme Court of South Carolina

September 7, 2016

The State, Petitioner,
v.
Theodore Manning, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2015-000204

          Heard November 4, 2015

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS

         Appeal From Richland County G. Thomas Cooper, Jr., Circuit Court Judge

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson and Assistant Attorney General William M. Blitch, Jr., both of Columbia, for Petitioner.

          Luke Adcock Shealey, of The Shealey Law Firm, LLC, and Elizabeth Fielding Pringle, both of Columbia, for Respondent.

          TOAL ACTING JUSTICE

         We granted the State's petition for writ of certiorari to consider the court of appeals' decision, State v. Manning, Op. No. 2014-UP-411 (S.C. Ct. App. filed Nov. 19, 2014), holding the trial court erred in failing to conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether the immunity provision of the Protection of Persons and Property Act (the Act)[1] applied and remanding the case to the trial court to conduct a full hearing. We reverse.

         Facts/ Procedural Background

         Theodore Manning (Respondent) was charged with murder following the death of his girlfriend, Mikki McPhatter (the victim). The victim died after being shot in the back of the head in Respondent's home. It is undisputed that the victim was unarmed. Another of Respondent's girlfriends, Kendra Goodman, led police to the victim's abandoned and burned vehicle, where her charred skeletal remains were discovered in the trunk.

         Respondent sought immunity from prosecution under Act and in the alternative claimed he shot the victim in self-defense. At a pre-trial hearing, Respondent's counsel relied upon Respondent's statement to police, introduced as an exhibit by the State, to support his immunity claim. In the statement, Respondent maintained he had taken a gun away from the victim during an argument, but ultimately "pulled the trigger to show her to stop playing":

It was a disagreement between the two of us. I was disregarding some of her questions when it came to the relationship . . . which turned into an argument that got heated. [The victim] picked up the firearm, pointed it at me. I asked her what the hell was she thinking. She asked me was I still serious, referring to whether or not I wanted to have kids with her. I told her that it was just friends with benefits, which made her even madder. I told her to stop playing and took the gun from her. I grabbed her hands and just took it from her. Then I pointed it at her and asked her "Are you fucking crazy[.]" I told her that "You can't be mad at me because when I came up to see you last you were asking me if I wanted to be friends with benefits." She was still talking about whether I was serious. The whole time she was crying . . . even when she was pointing the gun at me she was crying. She hit the gun and I asked her again "Are you fucking crazy[?]" She told me "You're just like everybody else. You said that you were going to be there for me and you hurt me just like everybody else." She went to take a step like motioned toward me, but she pivot [sic] when she did it and I pulled the trigger to show her to stop playing. I didn't see where the bullet went.

         Based on this statement, and considering it as an undisputed recitation of the facts, the trial judge heard arguments on the immunity motion from both sides. Respondent's counsel argued the statement constituted a "prima facie" showing, rebuttable by the State, that Respondent was entitled to immunity under the Act because the incident occurred in Respondent's home and the victim "pulled a gun on [Respondent], " Respondent "then disarmed her, and she came at him and he pulled the trigger." The State argued that because Respondent's statement indicated that the victim was unarmed when he shot her, Respondent was not in fear of great bodily injury or death at that time. Further, the State argued that the victim was a guest in Respondent's home, and therefore, she did not unlawfully or forcibly enter the residence, which is required to invoke the Act's presumption of reasonable fear of imminent peril.

         After considering Respondent's statement to police and hearing arguments from counsel for both sides, the trial court denied Respondent's pretrial motion for immunity. The matter then proceeded to a jury trial. Respondent was convicted of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to thirty years in prison.

         Respondent appealed, and the court of appeals found, inter alia, that the trial court was required to grant Respondent a full evidentiary hearing prior to determining whether the immunity provision applied, and therefore the court of appeals remanded the case for a full hearing. See State v. Manning, Op. No. 2014-UP-411 (S.C. Ct. App. filed Nov. 19, 2014). ...


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