Only on 12: Alleged cop-killer's attorney discusses death penalty notice

Stephon Carter
Stephon Carter is accused of shooting one officer and killing another in December. (WRDW-TV / Jan. 3, 2012)
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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012

AIKEN, S.C. -- The State of South Carolina wants an alleged cop-killer to die for his crimes. Solicitor Strom Thurmond of the Second Judicial Circuit confirmed this to News 12. He says he does not have a public comment, but he says the notice of death speaks for itself.

"On Thursday of last week, Mr. Carter was [given the] notice of the state's intent to seek the death penalty in his case," said Aaron Walsh, who has a legal practice in Aiken.

The attorney will represent the alleged cop-killer, Stephon Carter, in court.

"The state has declined to speak about any of the facts of this case, and at this time, I'm also going to decline to speak about any specific facts of this case," he said.

The shooting happened on Dec. 20 of last year around 8:28 p.m. An incident reports says Officer Travis Griffin responded to gunshots on Teague Street. An unlisted complaint informed the officer that the shots had been fired by Carter, who left in a Black Impala.

A short while later, he pulled over the Impala, which Carter was driving, on nearby Brandt Court. The report says Griffin was talking to Carter outside the car, along with Sgt. Tracy Seymour and Public Safety Officer Scott Richardson when Carter pulled out a gun.

It says he shot Griffin in his bulletproof vest, which prevented injury, but then Carter shot and killed Officer Richardson as he fled the area.

Officers fired back, striking Carter in the buttocks. The wound required him to use a colostomy bag, according to Carter's former lawyer, Carl B. Grant of Orangeburg.

On Dec. 22, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division charged Carter with the murder of Richardson and the attempted murder of Griffin.

Carter was transferred from the Georgia Health Sciences Medical Center to the Richmond County Detention Center in early January, still wearing his hospital gown. Carter was under a 24-hour surveillance watch with a Richmond County deputy by his side at all times.

Carter appeared before Judge Jennings in Richmond County a few days later. He waived his right to an extradition hearing, and within the hour, he was transported to the Aiken County Detention Center to await his next hearing.

In mid-February, Circuit Court Judge Jack Early denied bond. Carter waived his right to appear at the bond hearing at the Aiken County Courthouse.

At the hearing, Solicitor Thurmond told the judge other handguns were found in Carter's black Impala. He said the bullets recovered from Griffin's vest and Richardson's body were 38-caliber, matching Carter's handgun. The officers were using 40-caliber Glocks.

At the time, the state decided to hold back on releasing dash-cam video that apparently captured the incident. That week, Judge Early also agreed that the video should not be released for the time-being.

Now, the Solicitor's Office has decided it wants Carter to die for the alleged crime.

"To make a case in South Carolina, and this would be generally speaking of any case, you have to find, of course, the existence of the alleged murder and then one or more aggravating factors," said Walsh, who will continue to represent Carter.

He says that he is not certified to try a case involving the death penalty, but the state will soon appoint an attorney from Columbia to help. Walsh says he'll remain as Carter's local counsel.

Circumstances for the death penalty, as set by South Carolina Code, includes a list of factors including dismemberment of a person, murder of a child or murder of multiple people. In this case, Walsh says the alleged murder of a law enforcement officer while he's performing his official duties will likely be the circumstance the state cites in pushing for Carter's death.

"Without speaking for the state in any way, certainly, I believe they think that aggravating factor would apply," Walsh said.

First, though, a jury of 12 will have to find Carter guilty of murder.

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