Chaos erupted in a Dillon courtroom Thursday afternoon when a 22-year-old Dillon man convicted of kidnapping and murder attacked a courtroom officer and spat at state officials.
In a retrial, Damian Inman was found guilty of all charges, including murder, kidnapping, armed robbery, first-degree burglary and a weapons violation. He was charged in the death of 75-year-old Mary Alice Stutts in August 2009.
Shortly after the verdict was called, a sheriff’s deputy attempted to handcuff Inman. He resisted and punched the officer in the face. A swarm of officers tackled him to the floor as distraught family members cried out.
During the scuffle, a woman identified as Inman's sister crossed the divider from the spectator section of the courtroom in an apparent attempt to help Inman. Resident Circuit Court Judge Paul M. Birch ordered her arrest and she was quickly escorted out.
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As Inman was escorted out of the courtroom, he spat in the faces Fourth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Kernard Redmond and Dillon County Sheriff Major Hulon. A short time later he was brought back in, fully cuffed and wearing a muzzle.
The judge sentenced Inman to 30 years in prison for armed robbery, five years for possession of a weapon during a violent crime and five years for criminal conspiracy. A date has not been set for sentencing for the murder and kidnapping.
“In my 24 years as a judge, this is one of the most brutal, callous crimes I’ve ever seen committed,” Birch said.
“I deplore what happened here today after the verdict was read,” Redmond added. “Because that’s not what this is all about. It’s about justice for Mrs. Stutts.”
In his request for maximum allowable sentencing, Fourth Circuit Assistant Solicitor Shipp Daniel remarked on the circumstance that led to the day’s events.
“What happened here shouldn’t have surprised anyone,” he said. “There are no winners here today. The state has been successful in convincing a jury but no one really wins.”
Birch charged the sister with direct contempt of the court and sentenced her to 15 days in jail.
Inman was previously convicted of the crimes in 2010 and was sentenced to life in prison plus 80 years, but that was overturned by the South Carolina Supreme Court because of a jury selection error.
Inman, his brother Lorenzo Inman and John Henry Bridges were arrested after Dillon police saw two of the three suspects in Stutts’ vehicle just hours after it was reported missing.
Stutts had been reported missing earlier that day after a family member tried to reach her several times to no avail, then went to her West Calhoun Street home to find a side door open and her car missing.
Bridges eventually led police to Stutts’ body near Highway 9, just outside Dillon County’s Little Rock community.