A Democratic state representative introduced a proposal Thursday to eliminate parts of South Carolinas stand your ground law self-defense law, citing the slaying of a black Florida teenager.
The proposal is not expected to go far. Self-defense is an accepted right in South Carolina, and Republicans control both the state House and Senate.
But state Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, said parts of the self-defense law need to be scrapped before it results in a killing similar to that of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.
Last month, Martin was shot and killed while walking home from the store. The man who says he shot Martin has not been charged with in connection with the incident because Florida law prevents prosecutions in certain self-defense cases. The case has attracted national scrutiny because, in part, Martin was black and the man who shot him, George Zimmerman, is white.
Sellers, who is black, said he is afraid something similar could happen in South Carolina.
South Carolinas law, like Floridas, says if someone is attacked in a place where they have a right to be, then the person being attacked has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground to prevent death or great bodily injury.
The law commonly is referred to as a stand your ground law.
Im 6 feet, 5 inches (tall), Sellers said Thursday. I decide to go jogging with a hoodie on down any street in South Carolina with a water bottle in my pocket. I mean, Im running beside a couple, I dont want anybody to think Im running up on you.
But, Sellers added, You have a 6 foot, 5 inch African-American male running at you with a water bottle, thats the wild, wild West. Thats not the society we should be living in.
The S.C. law offers similar self-defense protections for people in their homes. Sellers bill would leave that portion of the law in place.
Sellers bill has been assigned to the House Judiciary Committee. Attempts to reach that committees chairman, state Rep. Jim Harrison, R-Columbia, for comment on the bill Thursday were unsuccessful.
Lawmakers approved South Carolinas stand your ground law in 2006. The year before, a security guard at the Cornell Arms in Columbia was charged with murder in connection with the shooting death of a 24-year-old who was visiting the apartment complex.
The security guard claimed self-defense, saying the victim had attacked him. A jury convicted the guard of manslaughter and a judge sentenced him to 16 years in prison. But, last year, the state Supreme Court overturned that decision and set the former security guard free.
The defense attorney in that case, Jack Swerling, said Thursday that he does not favor throwing out South Carolinas stand your ground law. But he said he would like to see it amended to better define the language dealing with the place where someone claiming self-defense has a right to be.
You have to put people on more notice of what that means so you dont have this wild West mentality that people think they can exercise this right anywhere, Swerling said.
Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.