Crime & Courts

Who Was The Man Who Briefly Disrupted Alex Murdaugh’s Status Conference Last Week?

Self-proclaimed “justice advocate” seeks to disqualify former chief justice Jean Toal from hearing Alex Murdaugh retrial hearing …

A Greenwood, South Carolina man is using convicted killer Alex Murdaugh’s high-profile court proceedings to take on the state supreme court members who blocked an appeal of his conviction fourteen years ago. Calling himself a justice advocate, Patrick Lee Booker filed a motion last week in Murdaugh’s case – claiming former S.C. chief justice Jean Toal participated in a conspiracy against the civil rights of citizens. 

In addition to his complaint, Booker is asking state lawmakers to disqualify Toal from hearing Murdaugh’s pending motion for a new trial pending the resolution of an alleged federal grand jury investigation.

Is there any substance to his allegations?

Booker raised his issues during a status conference in Murdaugh’s case last week – rising from his seat during a break in the proceedings and announcing to the assembled press corps that he was suing to have Toal disqualified. He proceeded to hand a copy of his complaint to our founding editor Will Folks, who just so happened to be seated on the front row of the media gallery.

After causing this brief stir, Booker returned to his seat where he filmed the Murdaugh proceedings on an iPad.

(Click to view)

S.C. chief justice Jean Toal presides over a status conference in Alex Murdaugh’s bid for a new trial in Columbia, S .C. on January 16, 2024.

Booker filed his motion with the S.C. supreme court that same day, however it has since been removed from the judicial branch website.

Representing himself in the matter, Booker including along with his complaint an affidavit for criminal conspiracy he filed in federal court on December 1, 2023. That filing marked the eighth federal case Booker has submitted since his 2003 incarceration after he pleaded guilty to four counts of armed robbery, assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature, carjacking, assaulting a correctional facility employee and threatening the life of a public official. Booker was sentenced to twenty years in the state department of corrections for the crimes.

There are ten cases filed by Booker listed in the public index for the S.C. court of appeals – including a case before the S.C. supreme court. Two of Booker’s cases are still active in the court of appeals. One of those is ready for consideration and the other is pending.

In his latest complaint, Booker alleged that on April 7, 2010 the supreme court deprived and denied his constitutional rights when they “entered an order restricting the exercise of Patrick Lee Booker’s civil rights without affording him any due process or equal protection of the law”.

How? A look at an appeal filed on May 9, 2022 provides the details.

In that case, Booker asked the court to vacate his guilty plea because he insists he was not fully informed of the consequences of his plea. Booker argued that he was not made aware that his guilty plea would result in mandatory participation in a community supervision program. He further stated he was not made aware of the lifetime felony firearms ban which removes a convicted felon’s Second Amendment right to own, possess, and use a firearm for lawful purposes.

The appeal was filed after Booker’s release from the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) August 10, 2020.

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Booker claimed the director of the S.C. Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services (SCDPPPS) modified his sentence improperly by imposing community supervision, which substantially increased the amount of time his freedom would be restricted. His claim against the supreme court justices is based on their agreement in 2010 that the matter of community supervision was not ripe for judicial review until the appellate participated in community supervision.

Booker’s community supervision was scheduled to end on June 6, 2022. An order signed by judge Frank Addy Jr. on April 28, 2022 determined that placement on community supervision is a collateral consequence of sentencing – and not a violation of Booker’s rights. It further addressed the matter of outstanding community supervision fees imposed on Booker. According to the order, Booker failed to pay the fees in protest – despite his ability to pay. Pending the resolution of the appeal, Booker was ordered to deposit the balance owed with the clerk of court so “he may be discharged from supervision without affecting the justiciability of his appeal”.

The case filed December 1, 2023 in federal court names all five of the 2010 members of the state supreme court – including Toal, current chief justice Donald Beatty, former justice Kaye Hearn, justice John Kittredge and former chief justice Costa Pleicones. Aside from the complaint and a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis – or without incurring the expense of filing fees – there has been no further activity on the docket.

FITSNews will certainly let our audience know in the event there is an update to this filing. However, considering the principle of judicial immunity – which extends protection to judges acting in their official capacity – it seems highly unlikely Booker would prevail in any of his cases.

Certainly, Toal’s ability to hear Murdaugh’s motion for a new trial based on jury tampering allegations – including an evidentiary hearing scheduled to commence on January 29, 2024 – is unlikely to be impacted in any way, shape or form by Booker’s motion.

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THE FILING …

(Via: S.C. Supreme Court)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Callie Lyons (Provided)

Callie Lyons is a journalist, researcher, and author whose investigative work can be found in media outlets, publications, and documentaries all over the world – most recently in the Parisian newspaper Le Monde and a German documentary for ProSieben. Lyons also appears in Citizen Sleuth – a 2023 documentary exploring the genre of true crime.

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1 comment

guest January 22, 2024 at 3:18 pm

You did not question the lack of transparency by South Carolina’s Supreme Court in removing the two documents by Mr. Booker after having accepted them for filing and having posted them on the docket.
Also, judicial immunity principles protects a jurist from monetary damages for judicial acts. It does NOT protect a judge from damages for administrative acts or for totally personal acts.
You also said nothing about the Maxton order.
I will not comment on that other than to say your story is incomplete.

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