Attorney General Alan Wilson said Monday that politics played no role in his decision last week to ask the state Supreme Court for a rehearing in a case involving a Columbia security guard who shot and killed a man on a public sidewalk.
“We represent the state’s interests, regardless of my personal views,” Wilson told the Columbia Rotary Club.
Former security guard Jason Dickey, 38, has served five years of a 16-year sentence for voluntary manslaughter for killing Josh Boot, a 24-year-old man who Dickey felt was threatening him on a sidewalk in front of the Cornell Arms. Dickey was working there as a security guard and shot Boot with a pistol. Dickey was carrying the pistol as a concealed weapon; he had a permit.
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In late September, the State Supreme Court overturned a 2006 jury’s guilty finding for Dickey. A judge sentenced Dickey to 16 years. The Supreme Court’s decision would have freed Dickey, except that Wilson asked for a rehearing.
Last week, when Wilson asked for the rehearing, he angered some gun-rights and self-defense advocates. They said Dickey never should have been put in prison in the first place and questioned why Wilson would want to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision.
But the Supreme Court was overturning a case won by a local prosecutor, and Wilson told Rotary Club members that one of the duties of his office is to represent prosecutors in all criminal cases on appeal.
“This has nothing to do with the right to carry (guns), nothing to do with the gun issue,” Wilson said. “The defense has the right to appeal at each level of litigation, and the state has a right to ask the court to reconsider their decision.”
Although his staff told him in advance that he would “take heat” for taking a stance that would keep a man who had used his concealed weapon in prison, Wilson said he was fine with that.
“I said, ‘That’s irrelevant; do the right thing,'” Wilson said. “Our job is to represent the state. That’s one example of many where I have to take a position that is opposite of the way I feel.”
In an interview after his speech, Wilson said he himself has a concealed-weapons permit and is a supporter of gun rights.
Dickey remains in prison pending a Supreme Court decision on Wilson’s request to rehear that case.