Last Monday, this news outlet exclusively reported on the illegal and unconstitutional release of convicted South Carolina murderer Jeroid J. Price. Price was released more than fifteen years early after his attorney – powerful S.C. house minority leader Todd Rutherford – obtained a sealed order from retiring S.C. circuit court judge Casey Manning.
After FITSNews’ exposed this secret prison release, S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson moved quickly to obtain a copy of this sealed order so that personnel in his office could better understand what may have prompted Manning to defy the state’s mandatory minimum sentencing law as well as constitutional protections afforded to crime victims.
What Wilson found caused him to petition for Prices’ return to prison – a petition which will be heard at noon tomorrow (Wednesday, April 26, 2023) by the S.C. supreme court.
On Tuesday, a bipartisan coalition of state legislators including house representatives Joe White, Heather Bauer, Gilda Cobb-Hunter, and Adam Morgan – as well as Richland County sheriff Leon Lott and S.C. first circuit solicitor David Pascoe – held a press conference with the parents of Carl Smalls, the man Price murdered on December 7, 2002.
Carl and Lilly Smalls told reporters about “part two” of the “nightmare of losing their son” – recalling how their experiences with the Palmetto State’s legal system have led them to see “more of a criminal assistance system than a criminal justice system.”
This nightmare was relived when the Smalls received a phone call on March 15, 2023 alerting them that their son’s killer would soon be released from a New Mexico prison, where he was sent after allegedly threatening the lives of multiple S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) employees.
“We were told he was released, sentence amended, no probation, no supervision, no restrictions.” Smalls said. “Since this order was signed by a circuit court judge I thought – as horrible as this was – that it was a done deal and we would just have to deal with it.”
No stranger to South Carolina’s “Injustice” system, Smalls said he wasn’t surprised by Manning’s order because of the way powerful lawyer-legislators like Rutherford routinely game the system on behalf of their clients.
“We are the lawyers, we are the lawmakers, we set the laws, we set the rules – you deal with whatever we put up,” he said.
Had our news outlet not uncovered Manning’s extra-legal order, that’s probably how this case would have gone. Once the travesty became public knowledge, though, law enforcement and prosecutorial leaders started scrambling. One of them? Richland County sheriff (RCSD) deputy chief Stan Smith, who called the Smalls to ask when the couple had learned of Price’s release. According to Smalls, Smith was “shocked to learn” Price had been released a full month earlier.
It was only after discovering solicitor Pascoe (who put Price in prison) and sheriff Lott (whose deputies are currently “closely monitoring” Price) were unaware of his release that the Smalls surmised the release order issued by Manning “was a secret deal and unlawful act.”
“We are here today to put a face on injustice,” Smalls told reporters on Tuesday.
According to him, their main objective in addressing the media was to encourage the type of systemic change necessary to “prevent another family from having to endure this miscarriage of justice.”
“There has to be justice for us, the victims – and not just for victims – but for all of you out there” Smalls said.
I asked Carl Smalls if his family would support a criminal investigation of the parties involved in Price’s release.
“We need investigations of everyone who signed this order, signed this deal, secretly – every one of them.” he responded.
Smalls went even further, saying he “also believe(s) that the judicial records of judge Manning and Mr. Rutherford should be examined, just to see who else they screwed over.”
Pascoe said Price’s release highlighted the inappropriate advantage lawyer-legislators are granted “not just in the courtroom – but in chambers.” He shared the story of representative Joe White visiting a judge only to find a member of the state’s Judicial Merit Selection Committee (SCJMSC) “chumming it up” with them – telling White judicial reform was “not going to happen.”
Pascoe implored the public to think about who doesn’t support judicial reform.
“Who benefits from the system we currently have in South Carolina?” he asked. “Who often gets elected as judges in South Carolina? JMSC member’s spouses, their cousins, their best friends, their law partners.”
Pascoe lamented the lack of support for White and Bauer’s judicial selection reform bills in the House – and lawyer-legislator S.C. Luke Rankin‘s refusal to move bills through the judiciary committee in the Senate.
Pascoe called on the voters of Horry County to “make your senator takes this legislation up and get something passed in the senate.”
With recent pressure from governor Henry McMaster – and a coalition of solicitors and sheriffs speaking up on behalf of reform – it looks as though there is finally momentum for long-overdue changes to the way judges are selected in South Carolina. Still, the likelihood of anything passing this legislative session decreases daily due to procedural hurdles, and an underlying lack of willingness on the part of legislative leaders to cede a privilege they’ve long abused, to the detriment of the safety of the citizens of South Carolina.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
(Via: Coleman Rojhan)
Dylan Nolan is the director of special projects at FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore school of business in 2021 with an accounting degree. Dylan primarily covers education when he isn’t producing video content. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.
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