After nearly a year and a half on home arrest, charged with the murder of his friend, Graham Franklin Douglas, 33, of Chesterfield, has been granted “immunity from criminal prosecution” by Chesterfield County Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge J. Michael Baxley. On Monday, Baxley granted Douglas’ Motion to Dismiss the charge of murder, which resulted after a series of events led to the death of Charles Eden Smith, 27, in the early summer of 2011.
“Given the testimony elicited at the Duncan hearing,” held Oct. 2, Baxley wrote in his decision, “this Court finds, based on the evidence in the record, that it was reasonable for Defendant Douglas to believe that deadly force was ‘necessary to prevent death or great bodily injury to himself.’”
Incident reports from the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office said the two men had been playing golf together earlier in the day and had returned to the Douglas home before an argument began.
“In reaching this decision,” Baxley said Monday, “the Court is fully aware that only two individuals were present when the fight that led to the death of Mr. Smith occurred, and only Defendant Douglas has survived to tell his version of events. Thus, the Court has discounted the portions of the testimony of Defendant Douglas that are either self-serving or subjective, and attempted instead to rely upon objective evidence and the testimony of other witnesses.”
Baxley’s ruling also reads: “The Court is being called upon to speak for the community in this instance, and thus it should be emphasized that this decision is a legal one, and is not intended to exonerate Defendant Douglas of any and all moral responsibility for what has happened.”
“The events of May 31, 2011, are tragic,” wrote Baxley. “In granting the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, the Court in no way condones the actions of Defendant Douglas on that day. In fact, the irresponsible conduct and misjudgment of Defendant Douglas have contributed to an event that resulted in the death of a friend, ravaged two families and divided a close knit community. It is the hope of this Court, in the aftermath of this decision, that Defendant Douglas will strive to the utmost of his ability to atone for the damage he has caused to friends, family and community.”
Baxley’s dismissal of this case also included these findings from the record: 1) the greater physical strength and superior physical condition of Mr. Smith as compared to that of Defendant Douglas; 2) the gross intoxication of Mr. Smith at the time of the incident, with a blood alcohol level of .216, which according to toxicologist Shannon Sorrells of SLED would result in aggression, violence, emotional instability and mood swings; 3) the multiple substantial injuries suffered by Defendant Douglas in the fight, including a bruised right eye, severe bruising on both arms, a cut on the right knee sufficient to draw blood, a bite mark to the leg, and a blow to the head; 4) a history of assaultive behaviors by Mr. Smith against various individuals including police officers, resulting in several previous criminal charges and convictions.
The dismissal of the case by Baxley means Douglas is “hereby immediately released from house arrest and all other restrictive terms and condition of this bond.”
— Staff Writer Karen Kissiah can be reached by calling 843-537-5261, or by email at email@example.com.