JOHNSON CUT WHITE’S HAIR. SOMETIME LATER, WHITE CUT JOHNSON’S THROAT. Self-defense, accident, shanks, and haircuts
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.
Stand Your Ground Comes Down To Witness Credibility
In The Case of State v. Preston Ryan Oates
On July 26, 2017, The South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the Circuit Courts ruling denying Oates motion for immunity from prosecution pursuant to the Protection of Persons and Property Act as well as Oates’ challenge alleging the Circuit Court was incorrect in refusing to grant a directed verdict of acquittal on the grounds that the State failed to disprove self-defense.
On Christmas Eve of 2010 the deceased was visiting his brother and his family. The deceased parked his vehicle on the street in the neighborhood. Parking on the street was prohibited by the HOA. Oates was a tow truck driver hired by the HOA to tow vehicles parked on the streets. Oates put a boot on the deceased vehicle and was beginning to hook the vehicle up to the tow truck. A neighbor informed the deceased that his vehicle was in the process of being towed. The deceased, the deceased’s brother, and the neighbor asked Oates not to tow the vehicle. Oates felt intimidated and got back into his truck and locked it. Oates testified that the deceased told the neighbor to ‘go get my shotgun’. Deceased’s brother told Oates to ‘take that[boot] off his vehicle’. Oates said he responded, “Okay, let me call my office and see what they [want to] do and we’ll get a handle…It’s not a problem, we can work this out.” Oates testified he heard a round being chambered. Deceased allegedly said, ‘You’re going to take this off right now and I’m leaving”. Oates allegedly stated that was fine. The deceased brother stated the deceased pulled a gun out of his pants, ratcheted the gun, and said, “Nobody’s going to take my car.” This made Oates nervous. Oates began fumbling his keys when the deceased’s brother grabbed them. Oates stated the deceased inquired whether he had any paper work on the vehicle because he did not want law enforcement to ‘come look’ for him. Oates showed the deceased a ledger to assure him he had no paperwork on the minivan. Oates also pulled out his gun from the glove box at this time. Oates testified that a concerned lady that lived nearby offered to call 911 but that Oates stated, ‘Don’t worry about it, everything’s fine, go back inside, he’s got a gun, so everything’s okay here’ hoping to alert the lady without alerting the other men. The deceased then demanded that Oates take the book off the vehicle.
At this time a struggle ensued. This case came down to the credibility of the witnesses. Ultimately, Oates lost the battle of credibility and was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter and sentenced to 26 years.
Procedurally, Oates requested immunity from prosecution because he argued there was evidence the deceased was trying to remove him from his vehicle. To be granted immunity Oates would have had to show that he had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to himself while using deadly force when the deceased unlawfully and forcibly entered the vehicle he occupied or that the deceased attempted to remove Oates from his vehicle.
The Circuit Court denied Oates’ request for immunity reasoning that the facts did not show that the deceased was unlawfully or forcibly entering, or had entered Oates’ vehicle at a time when Oates’ had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury. The Circuit Court found the deceased was walking away from Oates’ truck at the time Oates’ got out and shot the deceased. Further the Circuit Court held that Oates’ ‘use of deadly force against the victim was not necessary to prevent his own death or great bodily injury or the commission of a violent crime.” Further reasoning, ‘assuming that there was an “attack” previously, there was no such event at the time of the shooting.’
The Court clarified issues concerning the burden of proof concerning self-defense ruling that the State is not required to disprove the elements of self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt at an immunity hearing but would have the burden if self-defense is properly submitted to the jury.
This appears to be a case that was decided almost entirely on the testimony of the eye witnesses and the forensic pathologist. In analyzing whether one has a self-defense claim testimony and timing are all too important.
Alex Kornfeld is a Criminal Defense Attorney in Greenville, SC. If you have been arrested or are under suspicion of a crime, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney. You may reach Alex by phone at 864-335-9990.
Source: State v. Preston Ryan Oates