A majority of the South Carolina Supreme Court has affirmed the murder conviction of Michael Vernon Beaty Jr. of Clinton (with photo gallery).
Beaty was convicted in late January, 2015 of the June, 2013 strangulation death of his girlfriend, 19-year-old Emily Anna Asbill, also of Clinton. Her death has prompted an on-line petition and a pending bill in the General Assembly to make strangulation and suffocation a felony offense in South Carolina (currently, the violent acts are classified as misdemeanors).
Two issues of law raised in Beaty's appeal were taken on for discussion by the SC Supreme Court. These involved the way the trial judge gave a "non-charge" to the jury at the beginning of the trial, and the way 8th Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo chose to present closing arguments to the jury. All Supreme Court justices concurred in the opinion upholding Beaty's conviction, written by Chief Justice Pleicones, with Justice Few concurring in part and dissenting in part.
The opinion states, "We instruct trial judges to omit language, whether in remarks to the jury or in an instruction, which might have the effect of lessening the State's burden of proof in a criminal case. Further, we hold that in criminal cases tried after this opinion becomes final, if requested by the party with the right to second argument, the party with the right to open and close will be requested to open in full on the law and the facts, and be limited in reply to addressing the other party's argument and not permitted to raise new matters.
"After review of the record in this matter, appellant's conviction and sentence are AFFIRMED."
Beaty is serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole in Asbill's murder.