A jury on Thursday found London Wooden guilty of murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime for the October 2011 death of David J. Maple.
Wooden will be sentenced this morning by Circuit Court Judge James Barber III. The jury brought back the guilty verdict on Thursday afternoon after about two hours of deliberation.
Wooden, 19, was charged with murder and possession of a weapon during the commission of a violent crime in the Oct. 1, 2011, shooting death of Maple, 23, on Dallas Circle.
The two men were with a group of people gathered between two mobile homes on Dallas Circle when they got into a verbal argument, which prompted the shooting.
Maple, who was shot three times in the back and twice in the hand, was loaded into a car by two witnesses and taken to Aiken Regional Medical Centers, where he was pronounced dead.
During closing arguments on Thursday, Second Circuit Public Defender Grant Gibbons emphasized a number of factors that he thought cast doubt on Wooden's guilt, including the reliability of the state's witnesses.
The star witness, Schantrika Carter, has two convictions for providing false information to police officers, as well as a vandalism charge involving gang graffiti, Gibbons reminded the jury. Also, Erica Richardson, whom Carter reported seeing come out of a bathroom in one of the mobile homes immediately after the shooting, told the court she was entering Dallas Circle in her car when she saw the shooting.
“If you're gonna believe this star witness, Schantrika Carter, Erica jumped from her car into a closed bathroom and came out again during the shooting,” Gibbons said. “It's impossible.”
Gibbons also said there were errors by law enforcement investigating the murder, specifically that the responding deputies originally parked their patrol vehicles where the shooting happened; that investigators never spoke with the men who took Wooden to the hospital; and that they never searched the home where they found Wooden.
“The state wants you to believe that if someone came in here right now and shot me and took off, ran through the building next door and was caught in the parking lot in front of it, that it wouldn't be relevant to search that building,” Gibbons said. “It doesn't matter if I threw down the weapon in that building.”
Gibbons then told the jury they didn't have the full story.
Deputy Solicitor Beth Ann Young said the incident was still murder, and that eyewitness testimony and scientific evidence pointed to Wooden.
“Mr. Gibbons spent a lot of time trying to distract you with smoke and mirrors about what we don't have and what we could have found,” she told the jury. “I'd ask you to focus on what we do have, and that is a murder.”
In addition to the gun found at the scene through which Wooden allegedly ran, the bullets found in Maple's body and the shell casings found on the scene were found to have been fired from the gun, Young said. Wooden's DNA was also found on the handle of the gun.
The S.C. State Law Enforcement Division agents don't know the story behind items sent to them for testing, she said.
“That's what they test,” she said. “Lo and behold, what do you know – the testing that was done by independent agents confirms the story of the main eyewitness in this case, Schantrika Carter. The agents didn't know her story, and Schantrika Carter didn't know that the SLED agents were going to find scientific evidence linking the defendant, just as she told you what happened.”
Assistant Solicitor Sam Grimes is prosecuting with Young. Wooden is also represented by Assistant Public Defender Andy Smith.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.