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Does “Stand Your Ground” law apply to North Charleston shooting over alleged stolen car?

According to the Protection of Persons and Property Act, also known as the “Stand Your Ground” law, a person has the ability to protect himself or herself, even through the use of deadly force, if someone else is unlawfully and forcefully entering a home or occupied vehicle, or if someone is removing or attempting to remove another person against his will from the home or occupied vehicle.

Attorney Ryan Schwartz of Thrower and Schwartz said, “You can meet deadly force with deadly force. If we’re in a fist fight and you pull a knife out, then that becomes an elevated threat. I could use deadly force because a reasonable person would see that as a threat to their life.”

He said this defense can’t always be used. “You’re actually not allowed to elevate the force to deadly force.”

Schwartz said it’s legal to protect your home and your vehicle; only if you’re inside of it. “If you are occupying that vehicle, it is considered an extension of your home, and you can use deadly force. If someone enters your vehicle, it’s assumed they’re trying to cause harm to you. However, if you catch someone trying to break into your vehicle, that doesn’t necessarily arise to the assumption that there’s going to be deadly force used and I would advise that you call 911 and not use deadly force to protect a car.”

Lawyers for deceased murder suspect say they would have proven self-defense at trial

It’s been nearly three years since Goose Creek Police found two men shot to death and buried behind a home.

The discovery shocked the Lowcountry, but the case will never go to trial.

It was officially closed when James Edward Loftis, the man charged with the murders, died on Dec. 2.

Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury ruled his death a suicide.

Even in death, they stand by their client and maintain he acted in self-defense. They are confident the truth would have come out in trial and on Thursday, divulged the details that would have come out if it had made it in front of a jury.

“He had remorse from day one, he didn’t want to do this,” said Harris. “He called his wife and told her what happened. His wife called the police.”

On March 5, 2016, officials were called to the home on South Pandora Drive. In the backyard, they discovered the remains of two men who were dismembered, burned, and buried in a shallow grave.

Loftis immediately took responsibility and admitted to shooting and killing Guma Oz Dubar, 46, and James Cody Newland, 32. Loftis told police Dubar picked him up in a taxi cab from Charleston strip club Stilettos that night, Newland accompanied Dubar for the trip. When they arrived at his home, Loftis said they robbed him.

“(They) targeted him and drove him home, waited for the opportunity for him to pass out and were kicking in the door and he woke up,” Schwartz said.

Harris and Schwartz said Loftis shot and killed the men at the entrance inside his home. A police report stated one of the investigators reported no signs of forced entry, but both attorneys said pictures taken of the front door during their own investigation prove otherwise.

“Someone had kicked that door to the point where, the frame itself was broken,” Harris said. “Inside the cracks of the door was blood from the victims. Therefore, if that door was intact when (Loftis) opened that door, there’s no way to put blood into cracks.”

Harris said the photos also show a dusty footprint on the front of the door, but the footprint was a size 12, much larger than Loftis’ foot size. He feels this was a key piece of evidence largely ignored, which he uncovered during cross-examination at the preliminary hearing two years ago.

“There was one picture taken of that door frame and of the striker plate and that was taken the next day by a person that was just an officer that was just there and that picture was later destroyed,” said Harris. “I said ‘Did you see signs of forced entry?’ and he said ‘No’ and so I said ‘Did you look at the door?’ and he said ‘No’. They (police) went on from the beginning that this was him letting them in the door, so they didn’t look at the door.”

“It was an unassuming investigation, they had tunnel vision,” Schwartz said. “They had burned bodies in the backyard, they were more interested in that.”

It’s unclear why Loftis opened the door, but Harris said it doesn’t matter if he invited them inside or if the door was forced open, if Loftis felt a threat inside his home, it’s a legit Castle Doctrine defense.

“Just because you open a door for somebody while they’re kicking it in doesn’t mean you’re inviting them in your house.”

The most compelling and puzzling piece of evidence they don’t deny—the burning and dismembering of the bodies afterwards.

“The desecration of the bodies, it is what it is, we were willing to face that,” Schwartz said.

In his statement to police, Loftis said he freaked out, panicked, and tried to hide the evidence in order to protect his family. Disposing of human remains in such a way might not make sense to most people, but Harris said it shouldn’t overshadow what took place before, adding a premeditated motive doesn’t make sense either.

“Nobody knows how they’re going to react after they’ve just shot two people,” Harris said. “To tell me somebody that’s 39 with a good job they’ve had for 20 years and a family, all of a sudden wakes up when his life leaves town and says ‘You know what, today I’m going to go out and kill two people’, that doesn’t make sense.”

Since all three-people involved are now deceased, no one will ever know what actually happened that night, but they have their theories and believe it all began at the strip club Loftis visited that night.

“He was set up by one of the dancers,” said Schwartz. “I can’t prove that but we have evidence we believe leads to that (conclusion) that they were in cahoots with these two guys. They picked out a guy who was single, he was there by himself, he didn’t have friends with him.”

It’s unclear how Loftis connected with Dubar, cellphone records do not show correspondence between the two or that Loftis dialed any cab company from his cellphone.

“This wasn’t a legal cab, this wasn’t a cab where you call and they show up, this is a cab that basically takes people to and from strip clubs,” Harris said. “The guy was out on bond for attempted murder and he had this cab that he would drive and pick up people.”

Dubar was facing charges for an attempted murder on January 13, 2015. Court records classify the case as dismissed by reason of defendant’s death.

Harris said a handwritten letter Loftis received in jail supports their belief Loftis was likely targeted.

“She was a dancer who we believe was the one that, if it happened, put something in his drink,” said Harris. “She was the dancer that night. She also happened to be the girlfriend of the driver that took Eddie home. The letter [it was an apology], it says she wants to right the wrong she did.”

The letter did not include any specific details about her level of involvement, but did state she was in rehab and going through a 12-step program. She signed her name with a smiley face.

The news of Loftis’ suicide came as a shock to both. Schwartz said he talked to him four days before his death, he seemed worried but not in any state of distress.

“There was a civil lawsuit against him, a wrongful death lawsuit that the insurance company denied,” Schwartz said. “He called me, he was very worried about the fact that they had denied him coverage, he was worried that his family was going to get sued.”

“I think he sacrificed himself because he cared that much about his family,” Harris said. “It’s some of the worst days that I’ve ever had and not just because I was sad for him and his family but because we were going to win this, we were going to exonerate him.”

Loftis’ family did not want to be interviewed, but Harris and Schwartz said they felt compelled to release the case information and want people to know Loftis was a good man, a kind man, and completely devoted to his family.

Whichever way the case would have turned out, the lives of three families were forever changed that night

CRIME & COURTS ICE may deport Mexican-born ‘dreamer’ acquitted of rape of USC student

Carlos Hernandez was acquitted by a Richland County jury of raping a University of South Carolina student off campus after both had been drinking heavily in Five Points.

Ordinarily, Hernandez, 24, of Batesburg-Leesville, would have been set free and tried to rebuild his future.

But he is Mexican-born, was smuggled into the United States as a small child and has no permanent legal status. After the acquittal, Hernandez was immediately taken into custody and held for federal immigration officials, his lawyer told The State newspaper on Friday.

 “He is now sitting in Lumpkin, Ga., in the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) holding area waiting for his deportation hearing,” lawyer Aimee Zmroczek said.

The privately run federal facility in southwestern rural Georgia has roughly 1,700 beds and the highest deportation rate of any such facility in the country, according to the Marshall Project, a nonpartisan group that researches and publishes stories about the criminal justice system.

Hernandez turned himself in February 2016 following the sexual encounter on Jan. 30, 2016. Once he was charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct, his long-term visa status was revoked, even though a jury found him not guilty June 30, Zmroczek said. It took that jury less than two hours to acquit Hernandez, she said.

Between February 2016 and his June trial, Hernandez was held in the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center. Last October he was tried, but a Richland County jury deadlocked. That led to the second trial last month.

Hernandez has hired an immigration lawyer in Georgia and will have to go before an immigration judge and ask to get his status back, Zmroczek said.

If he loses his bid, “He’ll be deported immediately – and his whole family is still here,” Zmroczek said.

Hernandez had legal status and was a “dreamer” under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era initiative that protects eligible illegal immigrants who were brought here as children, Zmroczek said. In Hernandez’s case, he was brought across the border with Mexico in a car trunk at age 4 to join his parents, who were already in Batesburg-Leesville and living legally, she said.

“He was on his way to getting permanent citizenship,” Zmroczek said. Hernandez had graduated from high school, attended Spartanburg Methodist College, where he had a soccer scholarship, and had a job with a pipe-laying company when he was arrested, she said.

He paid taxes, had a Social Security number, had no criminal history and lived with his parents, the attorney said.

The sexual assault case was basically Hernandez’s word against that of the USC student.

He and the woman, who did not know each other before their brief encounter, admitted to a night of drinking with friends – each said they had about six drinks – in Five Points, according to evidence at both trials. Later that night near the university’s Capstone, they had sex in a dark alley.

Hernandez told the jury the sex was consensual.

The woman testified that he pressed something hard against her back, told her it was a gun and forced her into the alley where he raped her.

Surveillance videos do not capture the sexual encounter, but show the woman and a friend leaving Five Points with Hernandez headed in the same direction. Lawyers on opposing sides say the videos support their clients’ version of events. DNA taken from the woman matched that of Hernandez.

The State newspaper generally does not identify people who bring charges in sexual assault cases.

The jury of nine women and three men was out less than two hours during the second trial, said Zmroczek, who tried the case with fellow attorney Ryan Schwartz.

Prosecution attorneys were Carter Potts, John Steadman and Sandra Moser. Judge George McFaddin presided over the case.

Fifth Circuit solicitor Dan Johnson did not respond to a request for comment.

Ryan Schwartz Gets a Not Guilty

A Berkeley County jury acquitted a man last week of most charges that stemmed from a woman’s claims she had been sexually assaulted on the side of a dark, rural road by two men who pretended to be law enforcement officers.

Darrien Jermain Walker, 23, of Otranto Road in North Charleston, was convicted of impersonating an officer but was found not guilty at trial of kidnapping, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, Berkeley County court records show. His co-defendant, Brandon Gibson, 24, also of Otranto Road, remained jailed Tuesday awaiting trial on the same charges.

“My major concern with this case was a serious lack of physical evidence linking my client or the co-defendant to the crime,” Walker’s attorney Ryan Schwartz said.

The alleged victim gave a statement to investigators saying two men had followed her from a bar in Goose Creek to Moncks Corner before assaulting her around 2 a.m. Sept. 14, 2013, Schwartz said. He questioned the woman’s credibility, saying the version of events she initially provided was inconsistent with testimony she gave while on the stand.

Brandon Gibson, 24, faces charges of impersonating an officer, kidnapping, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, Berkeley County court records show.
Enlarge Brandon Gibson, 24, faces charges of impersonating an officer, kidnapping, first-degree criminal sexual conduct and possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, Berkeley County court records show. Provided
An incident report released by sheriff’s deputies alleged Walker and Gibson flashed red and blue lights on a cellphone to pull the woman over on Whitesville Road.

Both men claimed to be working undercover and accused the woman of appearing suspicious, she reported to investigators. One searched the woman’s car while another patted her down, “feeling every part of her body,” the report stated.

At one point, one leaned into the woman’s car, placed his hand on the seat between her legs and told her she was attractive, according to the report. He asked for the woman’s number, which she refused. He then grew angry, the report said, ordering her out of the vehicle and wrapping his arms around her so she couldn’t move.

“All she could do was scream,” the report said, prompting one man to place his hand over her mouth. He asked the other to retrieve a gun from their vehicle as he attempted to force her inside and take off her pants, the report said.

The woman fought back and the men eventually let her go, she reported.

Deputies pulled over a vehicle that matched a description provided by the woman shortly after the alleged assault. A gun was found in the car, deputies said, and the two men were placed under arrest after the woman identified them.

Walker had attended Brevard College on a football scholarship and transferred to Charleston Southern University shortly before his arrest. He was taken into custody a week before he was scheduled to begin classes there, Schwartz said. He remained jailed until his acquittal Thursday, he said.

Walker was sentenced to a year with credit for time served on the impersonation charge, court records show. He faced a maximum 30-year prison sentence if convicted of the kidnapping charge alone, Schwartz said.

“Thirty years is a significant, life-changing amount of time. … You never know what’s going to happen when you go to a jury, but I felt confident that we had exposed issues in the state’s case and that the jury would see through the smoke and mirrors,” Schwartz said.

Ninth Circuit Assistant Solicitor Matt Ozment, who prosecuted the case, declined to comment on the trial’s outcome.

All rights given to Christina Elmore and the Post and Courier.

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Criminal Defense Attorney Dorchester County DUI Lawyer

When you consider the possible outcome for non-representation, the benefits of having a Dorchester County criminal defense attorney become apparent. There are numerous advantages to employing the use of a criminal defense attorney or DUI lawyer in Dorchester county when you find yourself needing legal representation. In Dorchester County, there is no need to face the complicated judicial system unprepared and alone.

In South Carolina, DUI laws are meant to deter irresponsible drinking whenever there is a need to engage in driving activities. This encompasses the social drinker who makes the mistake of having a drink and winding up behind the wheel. Officers are allowed to initiate a drunk-driving arrest, simply on the basis of suspicion of being impaired.

If you are pulled over for suspicion of being under the influence, you may be instructed to take a breathalyzer test. This test will determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Refusing to submit to the test could result in a civil action, and the state may seek to suspend your driver’s license. But taking the blood alcohol test and failing it will also have negative consequences. This is why you need a Dorchester County DUI lawyer to come to your defense. If your BAC is over .08, you will likely be on your way to the police station.

Criminal and Civil Charges

There is no doubt that there could possibly be severe consequences if you are charged with driving under the influence in the county of Dorchester. There could actually be criminal and civil penalties to pay, following the outcome of your legal case. Without a good DUI and criminal defense attorney, you could easily find yourself facing large fines, jail time, or both. However, the right Dorchester County dui lawyer can help you win your case, or at least receive less severe penalties. Mandatory substance abuse treatment or community service may not be the most desirable sentences, but they are much better than the alternatives.

Depending on the circumstances of your case (and the level of BAC), it is actually possible to still lose your license, even though you win the DUI case. This fact alone is reason enough for you to seek out a good Dorchester county criminal defense attorney and dui lawyer. Notice the possible consequences that can result from a DUI charge or conviction.
Possible Consequences Include:

* Suspended driver’s license
* Revoked driver’s license
* Related violation and legal fines
* Increase in auto insurance premiums
* Loss of job
* Incarceration

Benefits of Representation

As you can see from the information previously discussed, there are many benefits of having legal representation, especially when dealing with a DUI case in Dorchester county.

They can help you when you are first arrested and continue fighting in your behalf, right until the end. You won’t have to be in the dark about the charges you are facing, and the possible outcomes, both favorable and not so favorable.

The DUI or criminal defense attorney on the case will help point out the best options for you, and work hard to plan the best strategic defense. After a thorough examination of the details of your case, you may be surprised to learn that your attorney can help you achieve a better outcome.

One strategy that your attorney might recommend after reviewing your case is to have the DUI charge challenged. This means going to court and having a jury trial. Your counsel will be there to use all the legal knowledge they have, to get you an acquittal. Clearly this is the most desired outcome.