Man found guilty of Hilton Head Island murder

astice@islandpacket.comFebruary 28, 2013 

After deliberating for several hours Thursday, a jury found Jerry Scantling guilty of murdering Leonard Green almost three years ago at the Pinckney Island boat landing.

Scantling, 30, will serve life in prison without possibility of parole for shooting the 52-year-old Hilton Head Island resident in May 2010 during what the prosecution said was an armed robbery.

Green's relatives, who occupied three rows at the Beaufort County Courthouse during the entire trial, remained silent under orders from Circuit Court Judge Carmen Mullen that there were to be no outbursts.

But as Green's sister, Joyce Young, offered to speak on the family's behalf while choking back tears, many of them also began to cry.

Young, who lost her legs and typically uses a motorized scooter, stood up on her prosthetics. She wanted to ask Scantling a question but addressed the court after Mullen denied her request.

"Y'all called him Leonard, but we called him Lee," Young said. "Lee was my brother. He didn't deserve to be killed like this and I don't understand why."

She thanked the judge, the jury and the prosecution with this: "I know he is at peace now."

After Scantling was led away in handcuffs and the judge and jury left the room, other relatives praised God and sang as they left the courthouse.

During closing statements Thursday morning, deputy 14th Judicial Circuit Solicitor Sean Thornton called Scantling "a murderer, a robber, a thief and a coward."

Testimony from a forensic pathologist who examined Green's body indicated that one of two bullet wounds on Green showed he had been shot in the back.

Throughout the trial, the prosecution called witnesses and provided evidence aimed at showing that Scantling had stolen Green's truck and cellphone, abandoned both in Savannah and stolen another car to drive back to Beaufort, where he was arrested days after the murder.

According to testimony, Scantling's DNA was found on a pair of headphones recovered at the Pinckney Island boat landing, but it was not found on a gun identified as the murder weapon.

For that reason, Scantling's attorney Matthew Walker insisted in his closing statements, the only thing the prosecution proved was that Scantling stole Green's truck. Instead, Walker told the jury, the DNA of another person, who was never identified, was found on the pistol.

During the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigation, Scantling said that Green, whom he had not met before, made sexual advances toward him twice on the day of his murder.

Walker said Green did not deserve to die. But "propositioning random people... you're opening yourself up to the chance of much more dangerous encounters," Walker told the jury.

"Who's to say he didn't stop the next guy on the road, and that's the guy whose DNA is on the gun?" Walker asked.

Scantling did not admit to the crime during an investigation. An ex-girlfriend claimed he confessed to her through a vent while they were both housed at the Beaufort County Detention Center in 2011 -- testimony that Walker urged the jury to ignore, saying the woman was hoping to get out of her own charges of forgery.

Scantling declined to testify during his trial. He was given another opportunity to speak during sentencing, but Walker said he advised him not to do so because the defense plans to appeal.

Green's relatives said the verdict gave them closure after nearly three years.

"It was worth waiting for," said Green's first cousin Stephanie White.

Related content

  1. Former inmate says defendant confessed to Hilton Head Island murder in jail, Feb. 27, 2013
  2. Trial reopens with return to Hilton Head murder scene, Feb. 26, 2013
  3. Judge declares mistrial in case of murdered Hilton Head man, October 25, 2012

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