Defense of Others
In State v. Hays, 121 S.C. 163, 168, 113 S.E. 362, 363 (1922), the Court approved a “defense of others” instruction, as follows:
The right to take the life of an assailant during an unprovoked assault extends to any relative, friend, or bystander if the use of deadly force is necessary to save the victim wrongfully assaulted from imminent danger of being murdered by the assailant, if the assault is malicious and unprovoked and with a deadly weapon, with the apparent malicious intention to take the life of the victim and thereby commit murder, and if such murder is imminent, then any relative, friend, or bystander has the right to take the life of the assailant if necessary to prevent such murder, provided there was no other reasonable means of escape for the victim so assailed, and provided both the person assailed and the person coming to his defense were without legal fault in bringing on the difficulty.
South Carolina has adopted the so-called “alter-ego” rule with respect to the defense of others. In State v. Cook, 78 S.C. 253, 59 S.E. 862 (1907), the Court summarized this rule:
If you intervene on behalf of another, you will not be allowed the benefit of the plea of self-defense, unless that plea would have been available to the person you assisted if he himself had done the killing.
In other words, the person intervening is deemed to “stand in the shoes” of the person on whose behalf he is intervening. If that individual “had the right to defend himself, then the intervening party is also protected by that right. If, however, the party [victim] had no right to use force…then the intervening party will also assume the liability of the person on whose behalf he interfered.” McAninch and Fairey, p. 494.
The “defense of others” rules apply to “any relative, friend or bystanders…” State v. Hays, supra. The same principles of retreat and withdrawal apply as if the individual himself were acting in self-defense rather than on behalf of someone else. If there was no duty to retreat by the person being assisted, there is no duty imposed upon the intervenor