PICKENS, S.C. — A Tennessee man that prosecutors want sentenced to death for murdering a Clemson University student from Missouri would likely be killed in prison if he were allowed to mix with other inmates, a national prisons expert testified during a sentencing hearing Wednesday.
Jerry Buck Inman's multiple sex-related convictions, along with a swastika tattoo on his arm, would make him a target for members of white supremacy gangs who look down on sex offenders, said James Aiken, a former warden who is now a prisons consultant.
"They will kill him because they have such a distaste for sex offenders," said Aiken, testifying for the defense. "Sex offenders alone are at the bottom of the totem pole in the hierarchy."
Inman pleaded guilty last month to killing Tiffany Marie Souers of Ladue in May 2006 at her apartment near the Clemson campus. Inman's attorneys have argued the 37-year-old sex offender should receive life in prison, a punishment they said would be even worse than death for him because of his severe guilt.
To keep him safe in prison, Aiken said Inman would need to be kept in isolation for 23 hours a day, and allowed out of his cell only to shower and for recreation. Any time he is let out, Aiken said, Inman would have to be in restraints; measures will have to be taken to keep him away from any other inmates.
Defense attorneys were expected to call their final witnesses Thursday. It was not clear if Inman will take the stand.
The hearing was delayed for several hours earlier Wednesday when an expert defense witness told the judge she was worried she could be prosecuted because she doesn't have a license to practice in South Carolina.
Prosecutors seeking the death penalty against Inman objected to testimony from Marti Loring, an Atlanta-based social worker who said she is an expert in traumatic stress. Even after the judge ruled that she could testify, Loring said she feared she could be prosecuted in the future.
Circuit Court Judge Edward Miller, who will decide whether Inman faces life in prison or death, delayed the hearing to give Loring a few hours to consult with an attorney.
Defense attorney Jim Bannister also called the Rev. Mike Hensley, Inman's pastor from Dandridge, Tenn., to the stand. But Inman didn't want the pastor to testify about his recent Baptism.
Souers' parents, Jim and Bren Souers, have been in the courtroom all week. On Wednesday, they were joined by their son, Trevor.
On Tuesday, a forensic pathologist testified that Inman suffers from severe psychological disorders that can be traced to his childhood, when he was raised by a mother suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and a father who sexually abused him.
Inman served 18 years for rapes in North Carolina and Florida and is a registered sex offender in both states. He was free for about nine months before his arrest in Souers' death. He also faces charges in an attempted rape in Alabama and a rape in Tennessee that authorities have said occurred in the days leading up to Souers' death.
When Inman pleaded guilty to rape and murder, he confirmed everything in handwritten confessions he gave to police shortly after his June 2006 arrest for Souers' death. He said he bound and strangled Souers and "knew Tiffany was dead because she stopped struggling."