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Judge weighing immunity in Anderson shooting

Defense attorney Druanne White talks to Raphael Parks during his hearing. White argues that Parks should be immune from prosecution in the shooting of Timothy Pickens under the Protection of Persons and Property Act.

By Mike Ellis of the Independent Mail
See Original Article

A judge is considering whether Raphael Parks acted in self-defense and deserves immunity or should be prosecuted for shooting a man more than two years ago.

Parks, 25, faces a murder charge and he declined Wednesday to testify at a hearing to determine if he gets immunity.

The immunity request is based on state legislation approved in March ? which codifies the use of deadly force against someone who enters a business, home or car unlawfully ? and on the older castle doctrine of self-defense.

Judge Lawton McIntosh said that the immunity motion was a novel issue for a grave charge and his decision will largely hinge on whether Parks had done enough to indicate he was retreating peacefully in the seconds after he attempted to punch a man with no immediate provocation.

The man’s friend, Timothy Pickens, chased Parks, who ran and sat in his own car and fired shots, leaving 31-year-old Pickens with wounds that would ultimately prove fatal.

The recent self-defense law provides immunity from prosecution but requires, among other stipulations, that the defender had not been engaged in illegal acts.

McIntosh said testimony indicated Parks had illegally assaulted Antonio “Bo” Paul by opening the rear door of the sports utility vehicle where Paul was sitting in a near-blacked-out state caused by drinking.

Two missed punches and a subsequent shooting happened in the parking lot of Andrew’s in Anderson off Clemson Boulevard, near two other nightclubs, at closing time around 4:30 a.m. on July 18, 2010.

It began with a catcall to a woman from an unknown man followed by a wildly missed punch, aimed at Parks by an intoxicated Paul.

That confrontation was mostly defused, every witness believed, and about five minutes later Parks was leaving with his friends when he decided to pull his BMW sedan either directly behind or very near the Jeep Cherokee where Paul was resting.

After opening the door of the Jeep, Parks leaned in and he either missed an intended punch, as prosecutors argued, or deliberately missed the punch to intimidate Paul, as defense attorneys argued. Paul was not injured.

Immediately after that second missed punch, Pickens, a cousin of Paul, chased after Parks. Parks had made it to his car as Pickens was standing over him and Parks shot twice.

Pickens died about eight months later after collapsing while performing routine care for a tracheotomy that he had after the shooting.

The judge said he would need more time to review new case law and evidence presented during three days of hearings this week before determining whether Parks met the standard of withdrawing from the allegedly illegal assault. If Parks met the standard of withdrawing from his alleged assault of Paul, it would essentially reset the self-defense argument and could allow Parks’ subsequent shooting of Pickens to be considered a legal act of self-defense.

“I’ll tell you frankly,” McIntosh told the attorneys, “the issue is whether the defendant leaving the SUV would be sufficient to break his prior illegal behavior or what was at least a baiting response.”

The judge said his other lingering question ? raised but left mostly unresolved by testimony and evidence ? was how Parks was able to get his gun so fast. Several witnesses said that Pickens was nearly on Parks’ heels and there were only a few seconds from the time when Parks threw a punch at Pickens and the shooting.

Defense attorney Druanne White said Parks, a large man with long arms, was able to get his legal handgun out of his glove box just as Pickens descended upon him.

One witness, Terrence Odom, told investigators that he was in the front seat of Parks’ car and saw Parks remove the gun before he went to punch Paul in the back seat.

Odom’s statement, given in the hours after the shooting, mixes up the chronology of the gunshots but gets the overall facts correct, he and prosecutors agreed. Allen said the statement is clear, and the timing of the gunshots wouldn’t change the part about Parks taking the gun with him to confront Paul in the Jeep.

All of the other witnesses said they did not see a weapon in Parks’ hands until the shooting.

Assistant Solicitor Josh Allen said that if immunity is granted it would mean anyone could provoke a fight, run away a few feet to his car and legally shoot the person.

“It would be granting a license to bait and kill,” Allen said.

Allen said Parks could easily have left the parking lot and not reignited a dispute that had dissipated.

White said that Paul would have been justified in shooting Parks during that assault, but Parks had the right to defend himself when he felt under attack in his own car.

She said Parks had no where to go once Pickens was on top of him.

She challenged the idea that Pickens had rushed to defend Paul, saying that Paul was safely in the back seat after Parks had attempted to punch him and slammed the door while running away. White said that while some are questioning why Parks attacked Paul, she questions why Pickens didn’t just stand still or leave rather than chasing Parks.

Allen said Pickens would have had no idea whether Parks was retreating or was going to his car to retrieve a weapon and come back.

Judge McIntosh gave no indication of when he would make a decision about the immunity request.

“Once the defendant shuts the SUV door,” he said, “at that point he’s not engaged in illegal activity. The question is: Is that conduct sufficient?”

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