COLUMBIA, S.C. -- The South Carolina Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the attempted murder conviction of a gang member who shot and critically injured a college student.
The court ruled Wednesday that Michael Juan Smith did not intend to shoot Martha Childress, a student at the University of South Carolina, and cannot be convicted on attempted murder charges. He is now entitled to a new trial.
Smith, 27, was originally sentenced to 40 years in state prison in 2015 for the shooting that left Childress paralyzed from the waist down. During the original trial, Smith testified that he fired his gun in self-defense, intending to shoot a rival gang member when he shot Childress.
In its decision, the court said the trial contained “multiple errors,” including the felony attempted murder charge prosecutors levied on Smith, which “is not a recognized crime in South Carolina."
The ruling also accused prosecutors of going on an “unrelenting quest” to include it in the jury instructions.
In 2014, Smith also was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for gun charges for the same crime. He will be transferred to a federal prison to serve his gun violation sentence while awaiting a new trial.