A 21-year-old who spent the last two years in jail awaiting trial on a murder charge walked away a free man yesterday before a jury even submitted a verdict.

Tyrone Winslow Jr. of London Middleton Road was acquitted when Circuit Judge Stephanie McDonald issued a directed verdict in his favor in a downtown Charleston court room on Thursday.

Typically, the defense will ask the judge to make a directed verdict when they believe the state has not met its burden of proof in a case. McDonald agreed with public defender Beattie Butlerís motion and acquitted Winslow.

The move came after both sides had presented their cases before the jury, which was going to begin deliberating.

The trial had been going on all week. On Thursday, Winslow took the stand and described what he says happened during the early morning hours of Nov. 13, 2010. Thatís when he fatally stabbed a man outside a night club near McClellanville.

About 2:30 a.m. on that day, Matthew Jerome Williams, 27, of McClellanville, was found outside Club 17 North off U.S. Highway 17, bleeding from stab wounds.

Winslow admitted to stabbing Williams, whom he said he didnít know, in self-defense. He told the jury on Thursday that after a fight started inside the club, he and his friends were ushered outside. There, he said, he was attacked by several people and was kicked and beaten.

A man bear-hugged him, Winslow said, and he used a pocket knife, which he always carried, to stab him in order to break free.

Detectives later told him that man, Williams, died from those wounds, having been stabbed six times, according to prosecutors.

Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.