South Carolina authorities will seek the death penalty against the man charged in the December 2011 slaying of an Aiken public safety officer.
Second Judicial Circuit Solicitor J. Strom Thurmond Jr. filed notice Thursday, informing defense attorney Aaron Walsh of his intention to seek the death penalty against his client, Stephon M. Carter.
Carter, who turned 20 on Monday, is charged with murder in the fatal shooting of Aiken Master Public Safety Officer Scotty Richardson.
Police say Carter was a passenger in a Chevrolet Impala that was stopped the night of Dec. 20, 2011, by Public Safety Officer Travis Griffin on Brandt Court after shots were reported at another location a few minutes earlier.
Griffin was joined at the scene by Richardson and Sgt. Tracy Seymour not long after the car was stopped. Authorities say Carter got out of the car with his hands in his pockets and then pulled out a .38-caliber Rossi revolver and fired. Griffin was hit first, in the chest, but was wearing a bulletproof vest. Richardson, shot in the abdomen and head, died later at Medical College of Georgia Hospital.
Carter also is charged with attempted murder in Griffin’s shooting, according to court records.
The solicitor’s notice automatically triggers a couple of things for the defendant’s case, Walsh said. First, Carter will be appointed another attorney certified by the state in trying capital cases, he said.
“I anticipate another attorney will be appointed sometime this week,” he said, explaining that the lead counsel must have at least fives years’ experience trying felony criminal cases to be certified.
Second, the South Carolina Supreme Court will designate one judge to handle all the pre-trial motions and hearings, he said.
Walsh said he was appointed Oct. 17 to represent Carter after attorney Carl B. Grant or Orangeburg, S.C., asked to be excused from the case.
Carter, who was shot by an Aiken police officer before he was captured, no longer requires a wheelchair but is still attached to a colostomy bag as a result of his injuries, Walsh said.
“He is not in any poor health other than that,” he said. “He is getting around completely under his own power.”