A South Carolina jury deliberated for a little over three hours Aug. 27 before finding a 24-year-old man guilty of the 2014 murder of Lexington County teenager. The judge then sentenced the man to the state mandatory minimum of 30 years in prison. He was given a prison credit of five years because he has been under house arrest since 2014. The case drew widespread media attention because the killing occurred after teens from rival high schools became embroiled in an argument following a basketball game.

The jury heard how the 17-year-old victim died minutes after suffering a stab wound to the chest in a restaurant parking lot. In a previous trial that ended in a hung jury, the man claimed that he acted in self-defense. He chose to not take the stand during his retrial. Police officers did testify, and they told the jury that the man fled the scene, buried the murder weapon in a neighbor’s yard and washed his clothes as soon as he arrived home.

Police officials were criticized following the murder because no officers were dispatched to the scene to prevent clashes between rival students. Passions were running so high at the basketball game that arena security personnel had students from the two schools leave the facility using different exits. The man’s attorney has vowed to file an appeal because the judge did not instruct the jury to consider a “stand your ground” defense.

Experienced criminal defense attorneys may recommend pursuing a negotiated plea agreement instead of arguing self-defense when presented with facts like these in cases involving violent crimes. This is because the penalties for crimes like homicide are severe. Prosecutors may be willing to reduce the charges in return for a guilty plea and avoid the risks of a trial.

Source: The State, “SC jury finds Dennis guilty of stabbing murder of high school student at Lexington Cook Out,” John Monk, Aug. 27, 2019