October 18, 2018
OF CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEALS
from Charleston County R. Lawton McIntosh, Circuit Court
Appellate Defender Robert Michael Dudek, of Columbia, for
Attorney General Alan McCrory Wilson, Deputy Attorney General
Donald J. Zelenka, Senior Assistant Deputy Attorney General
Melody J. Brown, Assistant Attorney General Sherrie
Butterbaugh, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Scarlett Anne
Wilson, of Charleston, for Respondent.
appeal from a conviction for murder, we hold the trial court
properly refused to charge the law of self-defense. The
defendant shot and killed the victim with an
unlawfully-possessed pistol the defendant intentionally
brought to an illegal drug transaction. We find the defendant
was at fault in bringing on the violence. We affirm.
Mitchell made arrangements with Akim Ladson to meet for the
purpose of purchasing from Ladson a particularly high-quality
variety of marijuana known as "loud." Mitchell then
went to the mobile home where he knew Jalann Williams to be
living to recruit Williams as a participant in the drug deal.
The reasons Mitchell recruited Williams-and Williams agreed
to go-are disputed. Mitchell testified Williams told him he
was going to the drug deal to rob Ladson because Williams
needed money to pay his bail bondsman on other charges.
Williams denied any intent to rob Ladson. He testified he
loaned Mitchell the money to buy "loud," but the
price seemed low, so he went to the drug deal to be sure
Mitchell was buying the proper marijuana. His apparent
purpose was to ensure his loan would be repaid. Referring to
the price, he testified, "I didn't really trust that
but I was like, 'That's him buying and as long as I
get my money back by the end of the week I was all
right.'" Williams further explained his purpose,
"I said, 'well, I'm going to go along with you
because I don't believe nobody got no price [sic] for
that weed.'" He later testified, "Out of the
whole my main concern was just to get my money back at the
end of the week because I needed the money back."
disputed facts, however, are not important to our analysis.
What is important to our analysis is the undisputed fact that
when Williams agreed to participate in the drug deal, he made
a conscious choice to take his loaded pistol with him.
and Mitchell waited for Ladson in the same mobile home park
where Williams was living. Ladson arrived in a car driven by
his girlfriend, Alayah Hamlin. Ladson was in the front
passenger seat. Williams and Mitchell entered the backseats
of Hamlin's car and began the drug deal. Ladson handed
Mitchell the marijuana, and Mitchell began to inspect and
weigh it on a portable scale Williams brought with him.
Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Williams,
Ladson attacked Williams, Williams feared for his safety, and
Williams had no opportunity to get away. Williams then shot
and killed Ladson.
State charged Williams with murder, armed robbery, and
possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent
crime. At trial, Williams requested the trial court charge
the jury the law of self-defense as to the murder charge. The
trial court refused. The jury convicted Williams of murder
and possession of a firearm during the commission of a
violent crime. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on the
charge that Williams robbed Ladson. The trial court sentenced
Williams to thirty years in prison.
appealed, arguing the trial court erred in refusing to charge
the law of self-defense. The court of appeals affirmed.
State v. Williams, Op. No. 2017-UP-015 (S.C. Ct.
App. filed Jan. 11, 2017). We granted Williams' petition
for a writ of certiorari to review the court of appeals'
trial court must charge the jury on the law applicable to the
jury's deliberations. See State v. Marin, 415
S.C. 475, 482, 783 S.E.2d 808, 812 (2016) ("The trial
court is required to charge only the current and correct law
of South Carolina. The law to be charged must be determined
from the evidence presented at trial.") (quotations and
citations omitted); Winkler v. State, 418 S.C. 643,
655, 795 S.E.2d 686, 693 (2016) (holding a trial court should
not answer a jury's question if the answer is "not
applicable to the jury's deliberations") (citation
omitted). In some cases, the jury must be charged that
criminal liability for homicide may be excused under the
doctrine of self-defense. The law requires this self-defense
charge, however, only when there is evidence in the record
that supports the right of the defendant to use deadly force.
To enable trial courts to determine when the evidence does
support that right, and thus when the law of self-defense
must be charged to the jury, this Court has listed four
elements that must be present. State v. Dickey, 394
S.C. 491, 499, 716 S.E.2d 97, 101 (2011). If there is no
evidence to support the existence of any one element, the
trial court must not charge self-defense to the jury. Whether
there is any evidence to support each element is a question
structure places the burden on the defendant to produce some
evidence to support the existence of each element. See
Stone v. State, 294 S.C. 286, 287, 363 S.E.2d 903, 904
(1988) (stating "a defendant is entitled to a jury
instruction on self-defense if he has produced evidence
tending to show the four elements of that defense");
State v. Bellamy, 293 S.C. 103, 105, 359 S.E.2d 63,
64-65 (1987) (stating the defendant "must . . . produce
evidence" to support the charge of self-defense),
overruled on other grounds by State v. Torrence, 305
S.C. 45, 406 S.E.2d 315 (1991). While the State must present
evidence to support the existence of each element of the
crime charged, the State is under no burden to produce
evidence to refute the existence of self-defense. However, if
there is some evidence to support each element of
self-defense-whether found in the State's presentation of
evidence or produced by the defendant-it becomes the
State's burden to persuade the jury beyond a reasonable
doubt that at least one element of the defense does not
exist. See State v. Wiggins, 330 S.C. 538, 544, 500
S.E.2d 489, 492-93 (1998) (stating "current law requires
the State to disprove self-defense, once raised by the