United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Charleston Division
C. NORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
following matter is before the court on defendant Karl Lyttle
Jr.'s (“defendant”) motion in limine to allow
evidence of self-defense or the defense of necessity. For the
following reasons, the court denies defendant's motion.
has been indicted for knowingly using and carrying a firearm
during, and possessing a firearm in furtherance of, a drug
trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A),
and brandishing and discharging said firearm, in violation of
18 U.S.C. 924(c)(1)(A)(iii). ECF No. 2. The indictment stems
from a November 22, 2013 incident that resulted in the
shooting death of Jerrit Jamal Timberson
undisputed that Timberson and four other individuals
(collectively, the “conspirators”) contacted
defendant under the guise of purchasing marijuana, with the
intention of robbing him during the transaction. Def.'s
Mot. 2; Gov't's Resp. 2. The conspirators drove to
meet defendant and brought along two “airsoft”
that were almost indistinguishable from real handguns.
Def.'s Mot. 3; Gov't's Resp. 2. Upon the arrival,
Timberson and another conspirator, Kelsey Dent
(“Dent”), approached the vehicle that defendant
was sitting in and began the transaction. Def.'s Mot. 3.
Timberson and Dent then displayed-and possibly pointed-the
airsoft guns, at which point defendant retrieved his very
real pistol and shot Timberson. Id. at 3-4.
Timberson was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced
dead. Gov't's Resp. at 1. Notably, the state
solicitor charged defendant with possession of marijuana with
the intent to distribute, but declined to charge defendant in
connection with the shooting after determining that defendant
acted in self-defense. Def.'s Mot. 8.
wishes to present evidence of self-defense or necessity at
his trial, while the government contends that these defenses
are inapplicable to offenses charged. Defendant filed the
instant motion in limine to resolve this dispute on March 21,
2016. ECF No. 65. The government filed a response on April
11, 2016. ECF No. 66. Defendant then filed a supplemental
brief in support of his motion on August 14, 2016, ECF No.
74, and the government filed a supplemental response on
August 29, 2016. EcF No. 76. The motion is now ripe for the
argues that justification defenses-self-defense, necessity,
duress, etc.-are available to defendants charged with a crime
under the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968
(the “Safe Streets Act”). Def.'s Mot. 6-7.
Defendant relies the on Supreme Court's decision in
Dixon v. United States, 548 U.S. 1 (2006), and
various other decisions that have recognized the availability
of such defenses in cases dealing with other firearm
possession offenses outlined in the Safe Streets Act.
Id. at 7. The government argues that, as a matter of
law, justification defenses are not available in cases
brought under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c), which deals with the
possession and use of a firearm in furtherance of a drug
trafficking crime. Gov't's Resp. 5-6.
U.S.C. § 924(c)(1)(A) provides:
any person who, during and in relation to any . . . drug
trafficking crime . . ., uses or carries a firearm, or who,
in furtherance of any such crime, possesses a firearm, shall,
in addition to the punishment provided for such crime of
violence or drug trafficking crime--
(i) be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of not less than 5
(ii) if the firearm is brandished, be sentenced to a term of
imprisonment of not less than 7 years; and
(iii) if the firearm is discharged, be sentenced to a term of
imprisonment of not less than 10 years.
of a § 924(c) violation requires “evidence
indicating that the possession of a firearm furthered,
advanced, or helped forward a drug trafficking crime.”
United States v. Perry, 560 F.3d 246, 254 (4th Cir.