Sunday, October 23, 2011

S.C. High court frees ex-security guard: Former guard served five years of 16-year term for voluntary manslaughter

For five years, he has been Inmate 00317668 in the S.C. Department of Corrections prison system, serving time at a remote facility in Marlboro County on a 16-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter.

But at about 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, 38-year-old Jason Dickey – a former security guard at Columbia’s Cornell Arms apartments – walked out of Evans Correctional Institution a free man, thanks to the S.C. Supreme Court.

Last week, Attorney General Alan Wilson filed a petition for rehearing, delaying Dickey’s release. But late Tuesday, the Supreme Court rejected Wilson’s request for a rehearing.

“This was a classic case of self-defense,” said Lourie Salley, the Lexington attorney who persuaded the high court to rule last month that the judge in the case never should have let the case go to the jury because Dickey was in danger at the time he shot and killed Josh Boot, 24, on a public sidewalk.

“The court is a gatekeeper, and it has a responsibility to rule as a matter of law in cases where there is insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction,” Salley said. “The Supreme Court said the trial court failed in that gatekeeper function.”

As soon as Dickey got out, Salley took him to a Mexican restaurant in Bennettsville, where he had steak fajitas with a salad. Dickey, who lacks one course of finishing college, plans to go to law school, Salley said. Salley declined to discuss whether Dickey is considering a lawsuit against the state for wrongful imprisonment.

The basic facts of the case were not in dispute. On April 29, 2004, Boot and another man had been verbally abusive to Dickey inside the apartments as Dickey tried to evict the two at a resident’s request. They eventually left without serious incident. But once the two were outside, a heavily intoxicated Boot made a threatening remark and advanced on Dickey. Dickey testified at his 2006 trial he saw Boot “reach under his shirt” for an object that turned out to be a liquor bottle.

What was in dispute was whether Dickey helped bring on the shooting, and whether he could have avoided the confrontation since he was outside the building he was guarding. Further, he was on a public sidewalk.

In its Sept. 26 decision, the Supreme Court ruled, 4-1, that Dickey was without fault in bringing on the confrontation, that he believed he was in imminent danger because Boot was advancing on him, and that he had no duty to retreat.

Columbia lawyer Jack Swerling, who represented Dickey at the 2006 trial, said, “This was the clearest case of self-defense I have ever seen.”

Salley said he was retained in the case by Grass Roots South Carolina, a gun rights group that supports the right of people to carry concealed weapons.

“He is glad to see justice done,” Salley said. “He’s extremely happy, glad to be out. For an innocent man to be incarcerated, it’s trying to say the least. Jason did say on several occasions, he wished it had not been necessary.”

Original report here

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