COLUMBIA -- A bill recently filed by a Republican state senator would add five crimes to the list of offenses eligible for a life sentence in prison.
Sen. Shane Martin's bill would add common law robbery, discharging a weapon into a dwelling and aggravated criminal domestic violence to the state's most serious offenses, as well as resisting arrest with a deadly weapon and taking a weapon from a law officer. He stressed that he selected these crimes because they involve people being threatened.
"These are all personal in nature," said Martin, of Spartanburg. "We're not trying to put people in jail for life for stealing a lawnmower."
Martin said he felt it necessary to do something about sentencing after talking with authorities about crimes allegedly committed by people with long prior records.
One of those cases involved Robert O. Brown, who was arrested in November and charged with shooting a Spartanburg County deputy who was trying to apprehend him.
Deputy Brad James lost sight in one eye, but the wounds were not life-threatening.
Brown, who was subsequently charged with attempted murder, armed robbery and burglary, has a criminal record that includes a domestic violence charge and convictions for assault and battery with intent to kill, possessing a stolen car and providing false information to law enforcement.
Spartanburg County Sheriff Chuck Wright complained bitterly after Brown's arrest that Brown still was not in prison with a rap sheet that long.
"We should have not had to been dealing with him. But then again, our justice system has been a failure," Wright said.