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New Trial Again Nets Life Sentence

By Glenn Smith
The Post and Courier
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

James A. Summersett Jr.'s second trial for killing his boyhood friend in West Ashley eight years ago ended Tuesday much the same way the first one did -- with a sentence of life in prison.

James A. Summersett Jr. was convicted of murder in 2003 for the killing of Julian 'Dooly' Grant, a boyhood friend.

In 2003, a jury found Summersett guilty of murder in the shooting death of Julian"Dooly" Grant in April 2002 during a brawl on Hazelwood Drive. But the state Supreme Court tossed out that conviction in 2008 and ordered a new trial, citing errors by the original trial judge. Summersett requested a bench trial this time around, preferring to let a judge decide his guilt or innocence.

After a day and a half of testimony, Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson Jr. found Summersett guilty of voluntary manslaughter, which carries a maximum 30-year prison sentence.

But because Summersett had previously been convicted of assault and battery with intent to kill in 1992, the judge said he was required to sentence him to life in prison under the state's "two-strikes" law for most serious offenses.

Nicholson said he disagreed with the law, but there was nothing he could do.
Trembling, Kimberly Grant, the victim's widow, said she was grateful for the sentence and she thanked God for giving her the strength to endure two trials.

"This is going to bring peace to our family," she told the judge. "We will not have to worry about him hurting anyone else."

Summersett, 38, sat impassively as the judge announced his sentence. Dressed in a striped jail jumpsuit, he glanced at his family and pursed his lips as he shuffled from the courtroom with the aid of a cane.

Assistant Solicitor Peter McCoy said he was pleased with the sentence and relieved for Grant's family, who had suffered so much already. "I'm happiest for them," he said. "They are the most relieved by this."

McCoy said the case presented some challenges because of its age, with witnesses scattered about several states. He praised the work of Charleston police detectives.