Jury selected in trial of teen suspected of shooting four at party

WINNSBORO -- Twelve Fairfield County jurors were selected Monday for the trial of a local teenager accused of shooting four of his peers -- including a Chester woman left paralyzed from a gunshot wound -- at a party last year.

Charles Carmack is charged with four counts of assault and battery with intent to kill and one count of possession of a firearm during the commission of a violent crime.

Authorities say that on July 28, 2006, Carmack, then 17, was involved in an argument with another man at a party off Old Airport Road, just outside the city of Winnsboro. After the argument, investigators say, Carmack went to his truck and grabbed a hunting rifle.

He fired into the air, authorities said, then went into a crowd. According to investigators, Carmack fired a shot that hit a barn and exploded, striking four people, including Chester's Amber Grant, who had turned 18 the day before.

Grant went into the barn after hearing that someone had a gun. She thought she'd be safe there.

"All I remember is a really big thump on my back and me landing (face first) on the ground," she told The Herald in May.

Emergency workers took Grant to a trauma unit at Richland Memorial Hospital in Columbia. She had the most serious wounds of all the victims.

A bullet fragment pierced her back and punctured every organ except her heart, lungs and stomach. She was left paralyzed from the waist down.

Since then, she has persevered. She received a driver's license this summer and now takes classes at York Technical College. Late last year, she moved into a 1,500-square-foot wheelchair-accessible house built by volunteers.

Grant was in the Winnsboro courtroom Monday morning, her pink and black wheelchair positioned beside the wooden pews where her family and friends sat.

The typically upbeat blonde looked uneasy. At one point, she turned her head and asked a nearby witness, "Are you nervous?"

He said he was.

"Me, too," she said.

At a table in the front of the courtroom sat Carmack, wearing a gray suit, and his lawyer, John Mobley of Columbia.

Carmack has pleaded not guilty to the charges. If convicted of all of them, the maximum sentence he could receive would be 85 years in prison.

Mobley said Monday's jury selection took longer than expected because of concerns that pre-trial media coverage of the case in a close-knit community could hinder his client from getting a fair trial.

But after the selection process, he felt the jury of eight women and four men would be fair.

"There's no doubt in my mind about that," he said. "I like this jury."

Both Mobley and 6th Circuit Solicitor Doug Barfield declined to discuss any specifics about the case.

Opening statements are expected to begin at 10 a.m. today.