SC Supreme Court to consider appeal of life sentence for Bluffton shooter

astice@islandpacket.comMay 20, 2012 

A man sentenced to life in prison without parole for his part in a shooting at a Bluffton apartment in 2008 has appealed his sentence to the S.C. Supreme Court.

Lucius Simuel isn't asking the court to revisit the guilty verdict. Instead, his lawyers plan to argue Wednesday that his sentence, issued under South Carolina's "Two Strikes, Three Strikes Law," is too harsh

The law says defendants convicted of two "most serious" offenses or three "serious" offenses automatically spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

In Simuel's case, the prosecution argued successfully during his trial in Beaufort County that a previous felony conviction in Georgia was a "most serious" offense, making him eligible under the law for life imprisonment.

Simuel's attorneys will argue before the S.C. Supreme Court that his prior conviction in Georgia was not serious enough to trigger the stiff penalty.

Simuel's first felony offense is called "false imprisonment" in Georgia, a charge that doesn't exist in South Carolina. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to a robbery in which he concealed his identity with a mask, struck a victim with a gun and put him inside of a cooler.

Duffie Stone, 14th Circuit solicitor whose office prosecuted Simuel's trial in Beaufort County, said the false-imprisonment charge is equivalent to kidnapping in South Carolina and is considered a "most serious" offense.

In 2009, Stone's office won its case against Simuel and an accomplice, who were charged with assault and battery with intent to kill, first-degree burglary and weapons charges for shooting two brothers -- paralyzing one of them -- in Plantation Point Apartments in July 2008.

Prosecutors said Simuel and Demetrius Price, both of Savannah, went to the home to offer to sell Deon and Deverol Cannick pills and powder cocaine. When the brothers refused, they forced their way into the home to rob them.

Price shot Deon Cannick at close range as he came down the stairs, wounding him in the neck. Price and Simuel then ran outside. Deverol Cannick went outside a few minutes later to get a description of the vehicle, but the shooters were still there. Deverol Cannick apologized for coming outside and lay on the ground. Simuel shot the man three times, paralyzing him from the chest down.

A search of the apartment after the shooting yielded 28 grams of powder cocaine, about a half pound of marijuana, several marijuana plants, 31 pills, four handguns, brass knuckles and about $1,416 in cash.

Price, who also had a previous felony conviction in Georgia, also was sentenced to life in prison.

Had Simuel been sentenced solely for the Bluffton case, the maximum prison time for assault and battery with intent to kill would have been 20 years, according to the Solicitor's Office.

The S.C. Attorney General's Office will represent the prosecution Wednesday before the Supreme Court. That office handles solicitors' cases when they are appealed, Stone said.

Dayne C. Phillips of the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense will represent Simuel, according the Supreme Court roster of cases.

Phillips declined to comment on the case.

Related content:

2 Savannah men get life in prison for shooting brothers in Bluffton, Nov. 20, 2009

Bluffton shootings motives revealed, Sept. 19, 2008

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