South Carolina’s Stand Your Ground law shows we’re serious about protecting self-defense in certain situations. If you’re eligible, you can get your case dismissed or even avoid prosecution.

But it’s not a slam dunk. You’ve still got to prove you qualify. The cases below are real, and they show the type of evidence required to successfully fend off murder prosecutions under Stand Your Ground.

When Stand Your Ground Worked

Resident shooting social guest in a home when the guest attacked him.

In a 2014 case called State v. Douglas, the Court of Appeals ruled Douglas reasonably believed shooting the guest was necessary to prevent great bodily injury to himself, and acted in self-defense. The key was that Douglas’s testimony was consistent with the forensic evidence at the scene and other evidence in the case.

Douglas presented photographs showing several injuries, including severe bruising on his upper arms, a black eye, a scraped knee, and several marks on his legs and chest.

The guest had no incapacitating wounds prior to that shot. The court ruled this made Douglas reasonably believe serious additional injury was about to be inflicted if he did not protect himself.

The defense brilliantly used the state’s witnesses to show objective evidence was consistent with Douglas’s testimony about the events leading up to the shooting. Gunshot residue on the guest’s left palm and on the wound indicated the guest was near the pistol when it was fired. Blood evidence confirmed Douglas’s testimony the guest was in the kitchen when Douglas shot him. The autopsy revealed the bullet path, which established the guest was facing Douglas when the pistol fired. The guest’s blood-alcohol level was 0.216 and the toxicologist who prepared the report testified that can cause “severe aggression, emotional instability, [and] violence” for an experienced drinker. A deputy testified that he knew the guest was a heavy drinker.

The court also took into account the guest’s previous attack of Douglas about five years earlier.

The court addressed the role played by Douglas in the drinking binge. While Douglas may have been intoxicated, the court upheld the finding a reasonable, sober person would have believed shooting the guest was necessary to prevent great bodily harm. The court also ruled Douglas did not legally cause the conflict by being part of the binge.

In the end, the court ruled Douglas’s testimony showed the guest violently, unreasonably reacted to a reasonable request to return Douglas’s medicine. And after the guest attacked Douglas and Douglas retreated to his bedroom, it was lawful for Douglas to return to the kitchen with a loaded pistol by his side, as he had a right to defend his home and demand that the guest leave.

Resident shooting a social guest who was told to leave, but returned and tried to force his way onto porch

In State v. Duncan, a 2011 case, the Supreme Court affirmed immunity. Duncan invited some people to his home. He told a guest to leave for making offensive comments. The guest left, but returned minutes later and tried to force his way onto the front porch. That’s when Duncan shot him. The court ruled Duncan’s girlfriend’s testimony and statements showed that at the time of the shooting, she was between the victim and Duncan, trying to remove the victim from the dwelling. But the victim kept trying to force his way onto the porch when Duncan shot him.

Stabbing live-in boyfriend when he attacked again after an earlier brutal attack

In State v. Jones, a 2016 case, the Supreme Court upheld dismissal of a murder prosecution. After a disagreement earlier that night, Jones attempted to leave the apartment she shared with her boyfriend. Then the boyfriend brutally attacked her. The attack included punching her, dragging her by her hair, and forcing her back into the apartment.

Jones ended up leaving for a while, but came back the same night to pack up her things to leave with friends. That’s when the fatal confrontation occurred. Jones claimed the boyfriend grabbed her and began shaking her, telling her “It’s over. It’s your fault.” Because she believed the boyfriend was getting ready to hit her again, she grabbed a knife out of her shirt and stabbed him one time in the chest. She ran out and left.

Addressing the self-defense factors, the court first found nothing to suggest Jones’s fault in creating the situation that led to the stabbing.

Second, the court agreed she actually believed herself to be in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury. Jones stated she believed the boyfriend was going to hit her again and that had she not acted as she did, then she would have been killed.

Third, the court ruled Jones’s belief reasonable, as a result of the boyfriend’s earlier attack. Jones also stated that as she left the apartment, the boyfriend grabbed her and shook her while telling her “It’s over. It’s your fault.”

When It Didn’t

The Supreme Court upheld a voluntary manslaughter conviction in 2013, despite the assertion of Stand Your Ground. The case is called State v. Curry. It grew out of a shooting at a party at Curry’s grandmother’s apartment. Curry shot a guest after they fought at the apartment, then got separated by other guests.

The High Court ruled Curry was not entitled to immunity under Stand Your Ground where his testimony and that of eyewitnesses directly conflicted on whether the victim attacked him. Several of the state’s witnesses testified that after the fight ended, Curry ran upstairs, came back down, and began shooting at the victim, whose back was to Curry. In contrast, Curry testified he already had the gun in his pocket to fire at midnight to celebrate the New Year. He testified he pulled it because he believed the victim was lunging toward him. He shot the unarmed victim six times in the back, killing him.

You Just Can’t Do This Alone

If you’re being prosecuted for a potential Stand Your Ground or self-defense case, you know the stakes are extremely high. Just because you were forced to act alone to defend yourself definitely doesn’t mean you should be alone in your legal defense. The law and evidence are complicated. You potentially face a victim’s family who’s hell-bent on ruining your life, plus a prosecutor who’s determined to make you pay and gets props at the office for getting people sentenced to shockingly long prison terms.

You need a skilled defense lawyer with experience in gathering evidence and using the law to your advantage. For a free strategy session on how we can help you stand your ground, call us right now at 888.230.1841.


Rob Usry
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Rob is a Spartanburg personal injury lawyer. Rob also practices as a workers' compensation attorney.
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