A review of State v. David Alan White. Self-defense, accident, shanks, and haircuts
On the night of November 27, 2013 in Charleston County, “Johnson cut White’s hair. Sometime later, White cut Johnson’s throat.” David Alan White and Joseph Johnson were at a friend’s backyard gathering. It was unclear as to what caused White to cut Johnson’s throat.
White testified at trial that he did not mean to injure Johnson. White testified that Johnson was cutting his hair. Sometime later, White decided to leave the backyard gathering. As he was walking he was punched on the side of his head. White testified he had one hand in his pocket and quickly spun around after he was punched. White testified he then noticed that Johnson was injured. While spinning around White swung a knife that stabbed Johnson.
White testified that he didn’t feel threatened but had a lot of head injured in the past. One in which he was hit on the side of his head that required stitches, one in which he was hit by a window pane that required stitches, and he once had a brain aneurysm. White further testified that he didn’t run because he was scared and didn’t know if he could get away safely. White then testified that he did feel threatened by the conversation with Johnson and his intent in swinging his arm was to protect himself. White stated his swinging was a reaction and that he didn’t even realize the knife was in his hand or that it was Johnson that close behind him when he swung his arm. White later testified that he knew it was Johnson who hit him but that he was fearful of Johnson.
White requested the Court charge the jury on self-defense and accident, first-degree assault and battery, and second-degree assault and battery. The trial court refused to charge self-defense and second-degree assault and battery. White was found guilty of ABHAN (assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature) and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.
During the trial, White wanted to testify about Mr. Johnson’s statements concerning weapons on his moped and about shanks that Mr. Johnson made in the past arguing it was relevant to self-defense and was not hearsay but the Court excluded this testimony. The South Carolina Court of Appeals found White should have been able to testify concerning the weapons on Johnson’s moped as it was relevant to his self-defense claim. The Court refused to make any ruling concerning the admissibility of the shanks due to the fact that this evidence was admitted to impeach Johnson at trial.
The Court reasoned that Johnson’s statements were relevant to explain why White believed he was “in imminent danger and if that belief was reasonable”. Although White admitted he did not know if Johnson was armed or saw Johnson with a weapon, Johnson testified he accessed his moped directly before he incident. The Court found, “Because White had reason to believe Johnson stored weapons on his moped and accessed his moped prior to the stabbing, we find Johnson’s statement was relevant to White’s self-defense claim.”
The Court also ruled that Johnson’s statements about weapons on his moped were not hearsay because the statements were offered to show what Johnson believed, not for the truth of the matter asserted.
White also argued that the trial court erred by limiting him to pursue either a self-defense OR an accident defense because there was evidence in the record to support both theories. The South Carolina Court of appeals agreed with White and reasoned, “Here, there was evidence White unintentionally stabbed Johnson and also evidence he intentionally stabbed Johnson.”
In 2013, November 27th was the day before Thanksgiving. You can almost paint of picture of the gathering in the backyard. Johnson cutting White’s hair. Talking about mopeds, weapons, and Johnson’s ability to make shanks. What else were White and Johnson conversating about??? We may never know, but I can tell you one thing; You betta tip your barber!
Alex Kornfeld is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Greenville, South Carolina. If you have been arrested or are under suspicion of a crime, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney. You may reach Alex by phone at 864-335-9990.