'Gray area' clouds state's stand your ground law
MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) - South Carolina's stand your ground law was enacted in 2006, but it does not address cases of criminal domestic violence. The recent stabbing death of a man involved in an argument with his girlfriend brought to light the gray area in the law.
Last week, A'Kara Edwards was released from jail on a $50,000 bond after police say she stabbed her boyfriend to death. Edwards was charged with murder, but the solicitor assigned to her case said those charges could be reduced or dropped because of South Carolina's stand your ground law.
ABC News 4 took a deeper look at how the state's Protection of Persons and Property Act impacts cases of deadly domestic violence.
"The general law of self-defense applies across the board in South Carolina. It doesn't matter the relationship that you are in," said former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon.
Condon says the laws for criminal domestic violence and the stand your ground law can sometimes conflict each other in the courtroom.
"The policy is that when you are in a domestic relationship that violence should not have part, whatsoever in that relationship," said Condon. "But we do have the law of self-defense. If someone is using violence and they happen to be in a domestic relationship, they still can avail themselves to the law of self-defense. Some might like to think or might have reservations about that being the case."
Condon says the laws become especially gray when one person in the dispute dies and there are no witnesses. If the suspect claims self-defense, the prosecution will have a difficult time proving otherwise.
"If there's only one witness and that witness is credible, generally speaking, the prosecution will not be successful," Condon said. "That's why this whole notion of plea negotiations comes into play. It may be wise for the state to offer a plea, a reduced charge that is so attractive to the defendant that he or she entertains or does in fact enter the plea."
Still, Condon says he believes investigators and prosecutors take an extreme amount of caution when working claims of self-defense.
"I think by and large, most jurors and judges are suspicious and hold people to a higher standard if a life has been taken. They want to see that the elements of self-defense have been made. So, by and large, my current view is that the existing laws are adequate but certainly worth a review," Condon said.
Condon says he does not recommend changing the law. He says it's up to prosecutors and police investigators to find enough evidence to present a solid case.