Stand your ground cases, where persons are allowed to defend themselves rather than retreat, are gaining more attention in the news. There are a number of important legal issues involved about the use of deadly force in self-defense. Some of these cases result in an individual being charged with a felony. If such a case happens where a defendant has a history with the justice system, it may require more care and attention to ensure the defendant's rights are well protected.
When a South Carolina man and his girlfriend came to his Spartanburg apartment one morning last April, two people were trying to break into his home. At least one of the men involved in the incident was apparently armed. The man took his girlfriend's gun and used it to shoot and kill both men. A weapon was found near one the intruders and police concluded that the killing was in self defense based on the Stand Your Ground law. As a result, the defendant was not prosecuted for killing the people who were trying to break into his house.
However, the man is reportedly a convicted felon. Under South Carolina law, he is prohibited from possessing a gun. This ban applies even though the man was previously convicted of the nonviolent crime of forgery back in 2008. Accordingly, he was indicted on federal gun charges, even though he was not prosecuted for the murders.
As the case now makes its way through the federal criminal justice system, the focus may sharpen on the legislative intent behind the gun charges. The man who has been charged with a felony may well argue that he had little choice but to use his girlfriend's weapon to defend her and himself from the apparently armed home intruders. Nevertheless, the significant consequences a conviction could bring mandate that every effort be made to protect his legal rights while arguing for a truly just conclusion to the criminal proceedings.
Source: GoUpstate.com, "Douglas Lamar Williams of Spartanburg appears in court on a federal gun charge," Dec. 13, 2012