Judge: Baughman granted immunity for brother-in-law’s death
by Robert Joseph Baker | November 23, 2015 3:33 pm
A 27-year-old Manning man charged last year in the shooting death of his brother-in-law will not face prosecution in Clarendon County court, a Circuit Court judge ordered Monday.
Third Circuit Judge R. Ferrell Cothran said Isaac Baughman II is entitled to immunity from prosecution for charges of murder and possession of a firearm by a person convicted of a violent felony, dismissing the state’s case against the defendant.
Baughman was arrested shortly after noon Dec. 5 at his mother’s home on Greenall Road by the Clarendon County Sheriff’s Office. He was charged in the shooting death of Stephen Hunter Brown, 19, outside Baughman’s home on Raiders Drive in Manning earlier that morning.
During testimony held before Cothran last week, Baughman said that Brown rushed him outside his home and that a gun he had in his possession went off, shooting Brown in the chin. Baughman, his wife, Candace Brown Baughman, and another male at the home during the incident, Austin Wimberly, then rushed Brown to Clarendon Memorial Hospital. Brown later died from his injuries.
Baughman told Cothran during questioning by his attorneys, Ray Chandler and Blair Jennings, that he suffers from cystic fibrosis, is disabled, stays in the hospital four to six times each year and that he’d been robbed several weeks before the incident with Brown.
“I was concerned someone was there to do me harm,” Baughman said. “(Other people) had come a couple of weeks before that to rob me, so I had obtained a weapon.”
Baughman testified that as a felon with convictions for possession of a stolen vehicle and third-degree arson, he was not allowed by federal law to have a gun.
“I did go and get the weapon and went to the front door,” Baughman said. “I couldn’t see anything. I opened the door and stepped out on the porch, outside the house, and the storm door shut behind me.”
Baughman said he noticed someone “crouched like they were doing pushups right beside my house.”
“He leapt up and charged me, he ran at me up the steps,” Baughman said. “He was wearing sunglasses, a hat and a bandana around his face, and I couldn’t tell who it was. The gun went off and he fell.”
Brown’s friend told Cothran that Brown did not like Baughman’s relationship with his sister, Candace Brown Baughman, and that he was going to get his sister from the home. He said he and Brown had been taking shots before taking the five-minute drive to Baughman’s home.
“I guess he just wanted to fight Isaac,” Robert Lee said. “I just thought we were going to get Candace. He didn’t like Isaac and he didn’t like his sister being with her.”
Baughman testified that he and his wife had a fight earlier in the day on Dec. 4, and that his mother-in-law had called law enforcement.
“I wasn’t arrested and I wasn’t taken to jail,” Baughman said. “The police told her that she needed to leave the home and not come back until the next day.”
Baughman said, instead, his wife returned to the home about 12 a.m. Dec. 5, after a series of text messages between the two. He said he and his wife had retired to the back bedroom of the home when Wimberly came and told them his wife’s phone was “going off.”
“I glanced at the phone and saw a text message,” Wimberly said. “It was from Steven, and it said, ‘OK, I’m coming.’”
Third Circuit Assistant Solicitor Chris DuRant argued that Baughman’s felon status precluded him from using a firearm during the incident, and that the defendant was not acting lawfully even while allegedly protecting himself from Brown.
“Baughman testified that he feared for his safety when he was told by Wimberly that a car had pulled up to his driveway and turned off the lights,” Cothran wrote in his recorded order. “Baughman armed himself with a handgun and went out on the front porch to see if a potential intruder was in the yard … It was only after the attacker fell to the porch and the bandana was lowered that Baughman could tell that his brother-in-law, Stephen Brown, was the person that attacked him.”
Cothran said that for a homicide to be excusable on the ground of accident, “it must be shown the killing was unintentional, the defendant was acting lawfully, and due care was exercised in the handling of the weapon.”
“Based on the factual circumstances presented in this case, this Court … rules that because Baughman was acting in self-defense, he was acting lawfully at the time he armed himself to defend against the masked attacker,” Cothran wrote, noting that Baughman was “without fault in bringing on the difficulty; actually believed he was in imminent danger of losing his life or sustaining serious bodily injury; and had no other probable means of avoiding the danger of losing his life or sustaining serious bodily injury than to act as he did.”
“This court finds that Baughman was acting lawfully, and was without fault when he was attacked in the process of Mr. Brown unlawfully and forcefully entering the dwelling, and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with deadly force,” Cothran noted.
Third Circuit Solicitor Ernest “Chip” Finney III said Monday afternoon that he will meet with the victim’s family and also talk with his assistant solicitors and law enforcement before he makes a decision on appealing Cothran’s decision. Finney said he has 10 days to decide.