CHARLESTON, SC - A man accused of murder changed his plea to guilty moments before the jury finished deliberating and the judge sentenced the man to 40 years in prison.
Minutes before jury selection in his scheduled murder trial, 30-year-old Herbert Smalls changed his plea from not guilty to guilty of murder. Circuit Judge Roger Young then sentenced Smalls to a term of 40 years with the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
Under the sentencing law governing murder, Smalls is not eligible for parole or early release.
According to Solicitor Greg Voigt, the investigation revealed that on April 25, 2007, Smalls and another man, Marcus Quarles, were approached by the victim, 45-year-old James Stewart and a woman while riding on a bicycle on in the 4700 block of Rivers Avenue in North Charleston.
Smalls went behind a building with Stewart and shot the man once in the chest at close range. Smalls then took Stewart's bicycle and was seen riding it on a surveillance video of a nearby school.
The bicycle was later recovered but police did not have any leads in the murder case until Smalls and Quarles were arrested in Charleston during the commission of yet another offense. In that case, a gun matching the characteristics of the gun used to shoot Stewart was found near where Smalls was found hiding underneath a house on Bull Street.
Smalls had previously been convicted of attempted armed robbery and assault and battery with the intent to kill. He had met Quarles while serving a prison sentence for these offenses.