Attorneys for a Savannah man sentenced to life in prison for a 2008 shooting at a Bluffton apartment failed to persuade the state's highest court the sentence was too harsh.
The S.C. Supreme Court has upheld the life sentence of Lucius Simuel, 33, who was one of two men convicted by a Beaufort County jury in 2009 of assault and battery with intent to kill, first-degree burglary and weapons charges for shooting two brothers -- paralyzing one of them -- at Plantation Point Apartments off Fording Island Road in Bluffton.
The ruling, published July 25, followed a hearing in May in which attorneys for Simuel argued that Circuit Court Judge Thomas Cooper misapplied the state's "two strikes, three strikes" law when sentencing Simuel.
The law says those convicted of two "most serious" offenses or three "serious" offenses automatically must spend the rest of their lives behind bars.
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Simuel's first felony offense in Georgia, "false imprisonment," is a charge that doesn't exist in South Carolina. In 1996, he pleaded guilty to a robbery in Georgia in which he concealed his identity with a mask, struck a man with a gun and put him inside a cooler.
After his four-day trial in 2009, Beaufort County prosecutors argued successfully that false imprisonment was a "most serious" offense, making him eligible under S.C. law for life imprisonment without parole.
Simuel's attorneys claimed that his prior conviction in Georgia was not serious enough to trigger the life-imprisonment penalty.
The state's Supreme Court justices disagreed.
In a one-page ruling, they affirmed the sentence, writing that the Georgia crime of false imprisonment is equivalent to kidnapping in South Carolina, which is a "most serious" offense.
Simuel is serving his life sentence at Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, according to the S.C. Department of Corrections.
Attempts Friday to reach 14th Circuit Court Solicitor Duffie Stone, whose office prosecuted the case, and attorneys for Simuel were unsuccessful.