HORRY COUNTY, S.C. (WBTW) — The South Carolina Court of Appeals released a decision Wednesday upholding a 58-year-old Horry County man’s voluntary manslaughter conviction.
James Richard Rosenbaum was indicted in 2016 for killing Roy Davis, who was beaten to death with a bat in Rosenbaum’s house while Rosenbaum yelled racial slurs at him.
Rosenbaum and his romantic partner, Diane Durkin, had moved to Horry County in 2015 before Davis’ death, according to court documents. Davis told Durkin he could get her a job, and had driven him home the night of the death.
Durkin claimed that she went into her kitchen to find Davis naked. She told authorities that he refused to leave, hit her in the face and then tackled her onto a mattress in the kitchen. Rosenbaum said he was coming home from the gym when he heard Durkin screaming, and he then grabbed fighting gloves from his car, took out a metal baseball bat and attacked Davis.
Davis tried to run away, and the couple kept him inside, shot him with a pellet gun and then beat him to death with the bat. Durkin called 911 during the attack and made “bizarre” statements, according to court documents, which stated that the couple “seemed to be in control of the situation and are heard throughout the audio shouting at Victim.” The call recorded Rosenbaum repeatedly using a racial slur, Davis screaming in pain and begging for mercy, and the sound of a baseball bat that was “so distinct” that the 911 operator specifically asked if a baseball bat was being used.
A police officer noted that there was blood all over the mobile home and that Davis’ head was “mutilated,” with “brains hanging out of his head.” Rosenbaum and Durkin appeared unharmed.
Durkin made contradictory statements after the death. After admitting she knew Davis, she later said she’d never met him before that night. A jailhouse informant told authorities Durkin said she’d known the victim for two years, did drugs with him, that they had had sex and that she had “wished she had bleached the house and just thrown ‘his body into a river,'” because then “she ‘would have never been caught for it,'” according to the ruling. She also allegedly told another informant that Rosenbaum was jealous of Davis.
Durkin pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in December 2018. Rosenbaum was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Both were sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Rosenbaum’s defense argued to the state court that there were multiple wrong decisions made at the trial, including that the couple should have received immunity under the Protection of Persons and Property Act because Rosenbaum was acting in self-defense. He also claimed that evidence shouldn’t have been introduced where he said he had been sexually assaulted by Black men being in the military, that information from a jailhouse informant regarding potential racial bias should not have been included and that Durkin’s statements should not have been allowed.
The South Carolina Court of Appeals rejected each of those claims, stating that the two didn’t prove the killing was in self-defense because Davis tried to run away and was no longer a threat to them.
The state court also said that allowing evidence where Davis said he was raped by two Black men, and another statement where he said he didn’t want to share a cell with Black inmates because he thought he’d be placed in a cell with Davis’ family members, was the correct decision because it showed there may have been a racial motive to the killing. None of Davis’ family members were incarcerated.
The state court also referenced the slurs Rosenbaum used while beating Davis.
“The use of racial slurs and epithets are typically strong indicators of racial animus,” the appeal court ruled.