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State v. Scott

Court of Appeals of South Carolina

May 3, 2017

The State, Appellant,
v.
Shannon Scott, Respondent. Appellate Case No. 2013-002124

          Heard September 8, 2016

         Appeal From Richland County Maité Murphy, Circuit Court Judge

          Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General Donald J. Zelenka, Assistant Attorney General Alphonso Simon, Jr., Solicitor Daniel Edward Johnson, all of Columbia, for Appellant.

          Chief Appellate Defender Robert Michael Dudek, of Columbia, for Respondent.

          KONDUROS, J.

         The State appeals the circuit court's finding Shannon Scott was immune from prosecution for the murder of Darrell Niles (Victim) based on section 16-11-440(A) and (C) of the South Carolina Code (2015). The statute codifies the common law "Castle Doctrine" and "Stand Your Ground" defenses, respectively.[1] We affirm as modified.

         FACTS/PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On the night of April 17, 2010, Scott's teenage daughter, Shade, went to a party at a teen club in Columbia accompanied by Rosalyn Fuller's teenage daughters, Ashley, Asia, and Ave, and two other friends, Denzel D. and Antonio B. Fuller was with Scott at his home in Columbia, and the teens were to return to Fuller's home after they left the club.[2]

         During and shortly after the party, Shade was involved in a confrontation with another girl, Teesha D. Shade's group left the club in a 1993 Grand Marquis driven by Denzel. They were followed by a group of females, including Teesha, in a silver Ford Expedition sport utility vehicle (SUV). The SUV chased the Grand Marquis, following it down numerous streets and into different neighborhoods. During the chase, Shade called her father and told him they were being followed by a group of girls with a gun. Ashley texted and then called her mother to say they were being followed by Teesha.[3] The teens were instructed to drive to Scott's home.

         Apparently, unbeknownst to the two groups, a third vehicle, a burgundy Honda, was following the chase from a bit of a distance. Victim was driving the Honda, and Eric W. was a passenger. According to Eric, Victim wanted to ensure the girls in the Grand Marquis got home safely.

         When the group arrived at Scott's house, they pulled the Grand Marquis into the backyard and, at Fuller and Scott's instruction, entered the house through the back door and into the kitchen. Testimony as to these and subsequent events is conflicting, but the record demonstrates the SUV drove by Scott's house, turned around, and drove back by the house with its lights off. The Honda was also in close proximity to Scott's house. Scott entered his roommate's bedroom, retrieved his roommate's gun, and shot from the front stoop of the house. One of these shots struck and killed Victim. Police came to the house in response to a 911 call Fuller made during the incident. Scott described the SUV and indicated it had shot at the house. He did not indicate he had fired in response. Scott later turned himself in to police and was indicted for murder. He moved for immunity under section 16-11-440(C) of the South Carolina Code (2015).

         At the immunity hearing, Asia testified she heard gunshots after the SUV started driving back toward the house with the lights off. Ave indicated she saw a gun hanging out the window of the SUV and saw shots fired. Denzel and Antonio testified they heard a gunshot as they were getting out of the car. Ave, Denzel, and Antonio admitted they had not mentioned hearing gunshots as they exited the car in their initial statements to police.

         Fuller testified she saw the SUV drive by the house and turn around in the parking lot of the Allstate Insurance building at the end of the street. She also observed a car behind the SUV when it entered the neighborhood and testified the car made the same turn as the SUV. Fuller stated she heard a gunshot as the teens were entering the house. She called 911 while Scott retrieved the gun from his roommate's bedroom and then heard Scott say "don't do it, don't do it" and afterward another shot. Likewise, Fuller admitted she had not mentioned hearing a shot as the teens were exiting the car in her initial statement to police.

         Scott testified he heard a "pow" as Fuller was getting the teens into the house. Afterward, he went into his roommate's room and took his roommate's handgun from the nightstand, and Fuller called 911. Lenny Williams, Scott's roommate, testified Scott came into his room and grabbed his gun and then he heard some gunshots. Williams's girlfriend, who was also present, corroborated that testimony. Scott stated he ran outside the front door to the front step of the house and as the SUV drove back toward his house, he fired a warning shot and told them not to come any farther. He stated the vehicles continued to move slowly and both stopped in front of his house. He heard another shot and saw arms hanging out of the SUV's window. He then ducked behind the front hood of his vehicle parked in the front yard, fired two or three times, and returned inside the house. Scott testified he shot to defend himself and did not remember exactly where he was aiming.

         In addition to Teesha, Kiwiana C. and Kyasia C. were in the SUV that night. Kiwiana admitted following the Grand Marquis and firing a gun. However, she told police she heard a shot while the SUV was parked in the Allstate parking lot and fired her gun into the air in response.[4] Teesha told police that as they drove into the neighborhood and past Scott's house, she saw a black female along with a heavy set male in the yard. She further stated she heard a gunshot while parked at the Allstate building and then heard a second shot. Teesha stated Kiwiana then fired her gun into the air once. Kyasia denied to police anyone in the SUV fired first and indicated she heard two shots before Kiwiana fired her gun into the air once. The girls admitted they thought about performing a drive-by shooting. Kiwiana even swapped places with the fourth girl[5] in the SUV for this purpose, but they changed their minds. Kyasia told police that as they left the neighborhood, they passed a burgundy Honda with its passenger door open.

         Eric, the passenger in Victim's car, testified they had followed the SUV but when it went past Scott's house, Victim turned left into a cul-de-sac to turn around. Eric testified that as the Honda came back down the cul-de-sac, he could see Scott in the yard and could tell he was light-skinned and had a gun. He indicated the SUV was directly in front of Scott's house and Scott was shooting at the SUV. He provided he did not see any shots fired from the SUV and neither he nor Victim had a gun that night.

         After hearing the testimony summarized above, the circuit court determined Scott was entitled to immunity from prosecution under subsections (C) and (A) of section 16-11-440. Regarding its finding of immunity under subsection (C), the circuit court stated:

When the Defendant fired the shot, he reasonably believed he was being attacked with deadly force directed at his home. There is absolutely no requirement that the defendant wait to be attacked by those that instigated the deadly circumstances. The Legislature ...

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