On Monday, the family of Angela Boyd White bagged up belongings from decades life at the little house in York. Decades spent at home, not in prison.
White suffered from multiple sclerosis and even heavier burdens in the 53 years before she died over the weekend. The York County Coroner’s Office has ruled hers a natural death.
As she packed, Patricia Hinton talked of how her daughter worked as a certified nursing assistant “until she couldn’t work any more.”
White’s son helped with the packing. Brian Culp was 15 in 1995, when police and prosecutors charged his mother with murder.
“She had an impact on a lot of lives,” said Culp, now 34, telling of how his mother helped take care of the sick and ill, the old and infirm.
At about the same time Monday at the Moss Justice Center courthouse, 16th Circuit Chief Public Defender Harry Dest looked at the photo of a client hanging on his office wall.
Dest has represented thousands of people in almost a quarter-century as chief lawyer for the poor, but the only picture in his office of a client is a newspaper photo of White and Dest in a courtroom after she was accused of stabbing her husband to death.
Nobody ever said Angela White didn’t stab Eddie White with many strokes of kitchen knives. Cops and prosecutors had plenty of reasons to view this as a murder.
But Dest argued, and a jury agreed in a 1998 trial, that White had suffered such abuse at the hands of her husband – beatings with a stick, having her head smashed through a glass aquarium, countless other abuses – that the stabbing was self-defense to protect herself from yet another beating that awful night.
A jury verdict of not guilty in a murder trial is extremely rare.
“I saw her a few years ago, at a walk in Fort Mill, and she was doing so good,” Dest said Monday. “I am so sad to hear she passed.”
White’s family said that, thanks to Dest, she was able to move on with her life after the horrors of abuse and that killing the day after Christmas 1995. She was able to move past having to relive it all during her trial.
“She had many good years after getting through all that,” White’s mother said.
Just days before White was charged with killing her husband, she had been charged with driving under the influence while fleeing from him. The charge was not dismissed by a young assistant prosecutor in 1998 after White was acquitted of murder. No dismissal, despite White’s having spent weeks in jail.
So she spent another 48 hours in jail.
“It was wrong – after all she went through and after being found not guilty because of spousal abuse – that she had to go back to jail for that,” said B.J. Barrowclough, the deputy public defender who unsuccessfully tried to have the DUI dismissed. “But she handled it well. She was great.”
Angela White’s life, like all lives, was not perfect. Court records clearly show she had struggled with substance abuse.
But after 1998, it was a life lived outside of prison. It was a productive and loving life, the life of a woman who – before and after the stabbing – was never charged with any other crime of violence against another person.
South Carolina again this year ranks among the worst in America when it comes to women abused – and sometimes killed – by men.
It was no better in 1995.
Dest has been on the “Larry King Live” TV show on behalf of other clients. He has met the President of the United States. Photos commemorating those times are on his office wall, alongside Angela White’s photo.
Underneath is the translation of a quote from a centuries-dead French judge named Montesquieu: “There is no crueler tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of law and in the name of justice.”
A few old words and a picture of a public defender and a woman. A picture of a life worth saving.