By Stacy Jacobsonsjacobson@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- After Elias Walker pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter for killing his father, he listened to his attorneys talk about how much Tony Walker had abused his son Elias.
"Tony beat Elias with a belt," his attorney told the judge.
During the plea hearing Friday, Walker's attorneys argued their client was a victim of criminal domestic violence and therefore should be eligible for parole under the state's statute.
But the statute defined domestic violence victims as "a spouse, a former spouse, persons who have a child in common, or a male or female who are cohabiting or formerly have cohabited."
The issue: Walker did live in the motel with his father.
Former S.C. Attorney General Charlie Condon said the General Assembly probably meant for the statute to only apply to people in a romantic relationship, and not to children. But he said the language of the law was too vague.
"He's only excluded from the parole eligibility break because he's male," Condon said. "A female would've gotten it. So I think this equal protection argument comes in to play. This statute because of this ambiguity, this need to clarify, I think we need to have a court come in."
Judge Roger Young has referred the case to state attorney general Alan Wilson, whose office said he is reviewing the case.
Wilson could ask the General Assembly to amend the language, if he qualifies the defense's argument. If not, they could appeal, Condon said.
But this type of case is rare, according to the executive director of the Lowcountry Children's Center.
"Where it's this extreme that it's acting out to the point of, even severe assault or death, I have not seen that personally," said Carole Swiecicki, who holds a doctorate in psychology.
But, she said it did draw her attention. The law could better protect children who are victims of child abuse.
"Part of what I wonder is if it's not an issue because child abuse isn't well recognized," Swiecicki said. "Maybe adult victims of domestic violence are doing better job of talking about what's going on and that's why there's a statute. Whereas, child victims often don't have a voice."
Now Elias Walker, whose father abused him and was later killed by him, will wait to find out if he can get parole. His case could change South Carolina law in the future.