Talking to the jury. Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo makes closing arguments June 30 to a Laurens County General Sessions Court jury in the murder trial of Benny Brown Jr., convicted of killing his girlfriend and Roger Rice Jr., a Laurens County Sheriff’s deputy. - Photo by Vic MacDonald

Solicitor: Life or death sentencing decisions being taken out of the hands of citizen-jurors

The prosecutor who secured double murder convictions this month against a Clinton man says he is concerned about the fate of the death penalty in the United States.
Today (July 13) is the fifth anniversary of the deaths of Nicole Kingsborough and Roger Rice Jr. at the hands of Benny Brown Jr., who was convicted of murder July 1 and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.
Brown also was found guilty of a weapons charge, and was acquitted of five counts of attempted murder.
Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo sought the death penalty, but that move was thwarted by a ruling of Circuit Judge Frank Addy Jr. that Brown’s mental capacity would not allow him to participate in his own defense against a capital charge.
In a statement following Brown’s conviction, Stumbo said, “As chief prosecuting attorney for the 8th Circuit, I fear that the death penalty is being slowly eroded out of existence in our country since the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Atkins v. Virginia.
“Our criminal justice system has increasingly taken sentencing decisions on life or death for killers out of the hands of our citizen jurors and placed those decisions in the hands of paid psychiatrists and psychologists.
"However, after five long years of pressing forward in this case, I am satisfied along with the law enforcement community, the family of Deputy Roger Rice Jr., and the family of Nicole ‘Peaches’ Kingsborough, that a large measure of justice has finally been achieved through these jury verdicts, and the consecutive sentences of life without the possibility of parole for Bennie Ray Brown.
“The relief and closure that we are left with today cannot be quantified with words. Rest in peace Roger. Rest in peace, Nicole.”
The Solicitor’s Office statement following Brown’s conviction said that on July 13, 2011, Brown followed Kingsborough to the Fehrer Plant in Fountain Inn, where Kingsborough was about to start her shift, and shot her from point blank range while she sat in her locked car in the parking lot.
The two had been involved in a long-term relationship spanning about two decades though they had recently separated.
Law enforcement tracked Brown to his residence on Barrel Stove Road in Clinton where a standoff took place. The state said shortly after officers arrived, Brown exited the residence firing shots into a crowd of family members gathered in the front yard. Deputy Rice was struck and killed by a gunshot from the same gun with which Brown had killed Kingsborough less than an hour before. Brown and another family member were injured in the ensuing exchange of gunfire. Kingsborough left three children behind, while Rice left behind a wife and two young children.
It took the jury parts of two days, June 30 and July 1, to reach its unanimous verdicts.
Stumbo praised the work of Deputy Solicitors Dale Scott and Demetri Andrews and Investigator Walter Bentley, and the State Law Enforcement Division, Fountain Inn Police Department, Laurens County Sheriff’s Office and Clinton Department of Public Safety.
Stumbo particularly noted the work of former LCSO Deputy Josh Garrison, LCSO Lt. Marty Crain, retired LCSO Lt. Robert Plaxico, CDPS Lt. Casey Jones, former CDPS Lt. Eric Robinson, and CDPS Sgt. Shane Prather, in securing the conviction. All of these officers witnessed the shooting of Deputy Rice and testified in the trial, the solicitor said.

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