South Carolina governor Henry McMaster has spent decades in professional politics – including eight years as attorney general of the Palmetto State from 2003-2011 and the last six-and-a-half years as governor. During that time, he has done precious little to move South Carolina forward – making him a definitional career politician, one slavishly devoted to the failed status quo that holds this state back on so many levels.
Over the last few months, though, McMaster has belatedly begun making noise on the issue of judicial reform – ever-so-gingerly calling for changes to the inherently corrupt method by which a handful of powerful lawyer-legislators pick judges in the Palmetto State.
While McMaster has been on the sidelines for much of this conversation, he has a way of parachuting in when things get … advantageous? Consider his eleventh hour endorsement of former U.S. president Donald Trump back in 2016, a move which Trump repaid by clearing a path for him to become governor the following year.
And which Trump continues to repay … for reasons surpassing understanding.
Anyway, McMaster jumped back into the judicial reform debate this week in the aftermath of our exclusive reporting a week ago on the illegitimate, illegal, and unconstitutional release of convicted killer Jeroid J. Price from the custody of the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC).
Retiring S.C. circuit court judge Casey Manning set the gang leader free even though he had more than fifteen years remaining on his sentence. Manning’s order – which was originally sealed from public view – expressly violated South Carolina’s mandatory minimums on murder convictions, as contained in § 16-3-20 (A) of the state’s code of laws. It also violated the victims’ bill of rights provision of the S.C. Constitution (Article I, Section 24) which, among other provisions, allows victims the right to “be informed of any proceeding when any post-conviction action is being considered, and be present at any post-conviction hearing involving a post-conviction release decision.”
Last Wednesday, I called for a criminal investigation into Manning – who has a history of aiding and abetting judicial corruption in South Carolina. That call has since been echoed by the family members of University of North Carolina football player Carl Smalls, who was murdered by Price in a gang-related shooting at Club Voodoo in Columbia, S.C. during the early morning hours of December 7, 2002.
Unfortunately, McMaster ignored Manning’s corrupt history – presenting the retiring judge with the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor, just four months ago. McMaster heralded Manning’s “remarkable career” as well as his “remarkable impact on our state” in bestowing the award upon him.
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“The early and unsupervised release of this inmate under the circumstances, particularly without SCDC’s awareness or input, was seemingly contrary to law and obviously at odds with common sense,” McMaster wrote in a letter to SCDC director Bryan Stirling.
According to the governor, the “clandestine” release of Price “threatens public safety but also implicates the public’s confidence in the judicial system and the rule of law.”
Yeah … somebody fit that guy for a ‘Captain Obvious’ hat.
The governor’s letter wasn’t completely worthless, though.
“In addition to seeking to rectify this apparent injustice, we must also determine whether this is an isolated incident,” McMaster continued.
To that end, he instructed Stirling to “determine whether any similar early release orders have been issued and provided to SCDC” since January 1, 2022.
Really? Why go back just one year?
As previously reported, law enforcement and prosecutorial leaders are said to be looking into other orders issued by Manning during his final days on the bench – and potentially orders issued by other judges at the behest of powerful lawyer-legislators in the S.C. General Assembly.
“You’re just scratching the surface,” a sources familiar with the situation told us last week following our initial reporting on Manning’s decision to free the gang leader at the behest of S.C. minority leader Todd Rutherford.
Count on this news outlet to keep digging … while at the same time tracking which politicians are serious about holding this failed system accountable.
THE LETTER …
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.
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