The South Carolina Supreme Court had made the unusual move of halting a murder trial to hold a hearing on the state's so-called "stand your ground" law -- but it's who's claiming the defense that's likely to turn heads: an armed intruder who shot and killed the man whose home he broke into.
South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal (AP)
Gregg Isaac testified in court this week that he entered the apartment of Antonio Corbitt in 2005 with another man, Tavares World, after World kicked in the door, The State newspaper reported. Isaac testified that as World and Corbitt fought, it looked like Corbitt was going to pull a gun and shoot Isaac, so instead, Isaac shot Corbitt twice. Corbitt stumbled outside and died.
Isaac said he also feared for his life from World, because World had threatened to kill him unless he went along with him.
Isaac's defense attorney Mark Schnee argued that his client should be granted immunity from prosecution because South Carolina's 2006 "stand your ground" law allows people to use deadly force if they fear for their lives.
“It borders on the preposterous for the defendant in this case to claim he was acting lawfully and had the right to kill Mr. Corbitt,” Judge Clifton Newman said in court.
Newman turned down a petition by the defense to hold a hearing on the matter, but after the trial began, Schnee filed an emergency petition with the South Carolina Supreme Court requesting a stay in the trial. The stay was granted Tuesday, the trial's second day.
The state Supreme Court wants to hear arguments on the "stand your ground" law, specifically about when in a trial a judge should hold a hearing about evidence that a defendant used deadly force because he claimed he feared for his life, according to The State. If a judge were to rule the "stand your ground" law applied, he could grant the defendant immunity and no trial would be held.
Dan Johnson, the 5th circuit solicitor whose office is responsible for criminal prosecutions, told The State he's "glad it’s an issue that the court is taking a look at."
Johnson said holding full pretrial hearings every time a "stand your ground" defense is used could slow the entire trial process.
"As you know, court time is at a premium. In essence, you’ll have to have a mini-trial before you go ahead with the full trial. It makes it more difficult to have a trial in a speedy fashion when you have to have mini-trials in factual scenarios that might be absurd, in my opinion," he said.