Clemson student's killer asks judge for death sentence

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | 5:40 p.m. CDT

PICKENS, S.C. — The Tennessee man who confessed to raping and killing a South Carolina college student asked for a death sentence Wednesday, saying prison time would do no good because he's too violent.

"I've shown by my actions both in and out of prison that I cannot be rehabilitated," Jerry Buck Inman, 38, told Circuit Court Judge Edward Miller. "I don't say any of this to be disrespectful, but your honor, in all reality, there's really only one sentence appropriate for someone like me, and I ask you to impose that sentence."

Inman pleaded guilty last year to killing Tiffany Souers in May 2006. The body of the 20-year-old Clemson University engineering student from Ladue was found in her apartment near campus with the striped bikini top used to strangle her still wound around her neck.

His brief comments Wednesday marked the first time the sex offender from Dandridge, Tenn., has addressed the court. Inman's comments mirrored arguments made by prosecutors.

"There are mean and evil people in this world who do not deserve to continue to live with the rest of us, regardless of how confined they may be," Solicitor Bob Ariail told Miller. "Jerry Buck Inman and this murder and his prior behavior makes this one of those cases where the death penalty should be applied. ... He's been in prison virtually all of his adult life, and he's exhibited no change."

Under South Carolina law, those who plead guilty are sentenced by judges.

In his brief closing, defense attorney Jim Bannister argued that life in prison will be more punishing for Inman than execution. Inman feels extreme guilt for his crimes, and sex offenders are harshly treated by other prisoners.

"He cannot erase the life that he took," said Bannister, adding that Inman attempted suicide seven times during 19 years in prison. "He lives under this burden, under the murder that he committed, the things that he's done."

Earlier Wednesday, a social worker hired by the defense to assemble a chronology of Inman's troubled history and mental health struggles told the judge that Inman's early years were marked by repeated abuse by his father, beginning when he was about 3. Inman's stepfather also took the stand briefly, tearfully telling the judge he and his wife love Inman very much.

Inman's mother joined her husband in court later Wednesday.

Inman also faces charges in an attempted rape in Alabama and a rape in Tennessee that authorities have said occurred in the days before Souers' death.

He spent 18 years in prison for rapes he committed as a teenager in North Carolina and Florida and is a registered sex offender. He had been free for about nine months before his arrest in Souers' death.

When Inman pleaded guilty to rape and murder, he confirmed everything in handwritten confessions shortly after his June 2006 arrest.

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