AIKEN COUNTY, SC (WFXG) - The man accused of killing an Aiken Public Safety officer in 2011 pleaded guilty to murder in court Monday.
"We know there's nothing that would bring Scotty back but through his three wonderful boys, we can see a little bit of Scotty everyday," said Gerry Owens, Richardson's cousin.
Stephon Carter agreed to plea guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without parole. Testimony was expected to begin Monday morning but an unexpected plea deal was accepted instead.
Prosecutors said they accepted a plea deal to see to it that Carter remain in prison for life. They also said they were concerned there may be a hung jury because of how the definition of malice has changed.
"Malice used to be inferred from the use of a deadly weapon. That is no longer the case and by their routine questioning of those jurors, on that question, we knew they were going to aggressively assert the element of malice was not present in this case. For either the murder of attempted murder charge," said Aiken County Solicitor J. Strom Thurmond, Jr.
Part of the plea deal is the state's withdrawing its pursuit in the death penalty. Prosecutors said the decision to sentence someone to death would have been difficult for the chosen jury or anyone else to make.
"Everyone is entitled to whatever opinion they may want to have. I would encourage folks to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves if they would be willing to make the sacrifice that these 12 citizens did. To sit in this jury box for a case like this," Thurmond said.
Stephon Carter apologized to the Richardson family.
Carter also pleaded guilty to an attempted murder charge for shooting at another officer.