A judge has thrown out a murder charge against a North Charleston woman who fatally stabbed a former roommate in June, saying the state's "stand-your-ground" law entitles her to immunity from prosecution.
Protection of Persons and Property Act
The bill was signed into law on June 9, 2006, and recognizes that a person's home is his castle. The law also extended the doctrine to include an occupied vehicle and the person's place of business. It authorizes the lawful use of deadly force under certain circumstances against an intruder or attacker in a person's dwelling, residence, or occupied vehicle.
The law also provides that there is no duty to retreat if (1) the person is in a place where he has a right to be, including the person's place of business, (2) the person is not engaged in an unlawful activity, and (3) the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent death, great bodily injury, or the commission of a violent crime.
A person who lawfully uses deadly force is immune from criminal prosecution and civil action, unless the person against whom deadly force was used is a law enforcement officer acting in the performance of his official duties and he identifies himself in accordance with applicable law or the person using deadly force knows or reasonably should have known the person is a law enforcement officer.
Source: State Law Enforcement Division
Regina Carey, 27, of Baxter Street, killed 45-year-old Tony Cleveland, plunging a knife into his chest on June 2 at a Bexley Street home where they both lived, according to authorities. But her attorney said she was acting in self-defense.
The South Carolina Protection of Person and Property Act provides immunity from prosecution to those who use deadly force because they felt their lives were threatened.
At a required pre-trial hearing held Friday in downtown Charleston, Circuit Judge Stephanie McDonald threw out the charge against Carey, saying the case was a perfect example of why the law was created. "A case like this falls within what the General Assembly intended to address," McDonald said in court.
At the time of the stabbing, Carey was living at the North Charleston home with her boyfriend, her boyfriend's mother, and Cleveland, the mother's common-law husband, according to her public defender, Michael Cooper.
On June 1, Cleveland went on an "all-night bender," smoking crack and drinking alcohol, Cooper said.
Cleveland returned to the home the next morning and continued smoking and drinking and began threatening those in the house, according to Cooper. At one point, Cleveland carried a dresser out of the house and smashed it with a hammer, Cooper said.
"At some point, he turned the violence toward Regina," Cooper said.
Cleveland beat Carey two times, hitting her in the head and trying to choke her, according to her attorney. Others in the home at the time separated the two and forced Cleveland outside, Cooper said.
But Cleveland made his way back into the home, which is when Carey grabbed a knife from the kitchen to defend herself, according to Cooper.
When Cleveland attacked Carey a third time, she stabbed him once in the chest, Cooper said.
Cooper said Cleveland was so fueled by crack and alcohol, after being stabbed, he tried to choke her again, before passing out and dying.
"What the judge ruled was that my client had no choice but to act in self-defense," Cooper said.
Carey, who has three children, had been jailed since June. She had given birth one week before the incident and her arrest, according to Cooper.
"I'm happy my client can finally go home for Christmas," he said.
North Charleston police and 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson said the case was handled by the book, and that the charge seemed appropriate based on the evidence collected at the time of the stabbing.
At the time, Assistant Solicitor Culver Kidd said, police indicated that Carey had given conflicting statements during her interview. Police also told prosecutors the fighting was in a lull when Carey armed herself with the knife, that she had no significant injuries, she had lied in an attempt to cover up the way the events transpired and fled from the scene following the stabbing, he said.
Based on this information, Kidd said he had no problem with police charging Carey with murder.
Wilson said all involved appeared to make reasonable decisions based on what was known at the time. A clearer picture emerged as the investigation continued, she said.
Wilson said Friday's pre-trial hearing was requested by the defense as required by the state Supreme Court when issues of immunity under the "stand-your-ground" law are raised. "Her ruling was understandable under the facts of the case," she said.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.
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