The latest on the Beatty controversy/ prosecutorial misconduct in South Carolina

Gideon, from A Public Defender, now has a column at the Connecticut Law Tribune titled “Your Bias is Showing,” where he continues the conversation about prosecutorial misconduct nationwide and where he comments specifically on Beatty’s much-maligned (or much-applauded, depending on the listener) comments at the Solicitor’s Conference this winter:

First Judge Michael Sheldon of the Connecticut Appellate Court called it “a deliberate pattern of improper conduct” in State v. Santiago. Then, in another reference to prosecutorial misconduct, a Fourth Circuit opinion in U.S. v. Bartko pleaded “whatever it takes, this behavior must stop.” And Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth Circuit started a blistering dissent in U.S. v. Olsen with the following: “There is an epidemic of Brady violations abroad in the land. Only judges can put a stop to it.”

Yet when South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Donald Beatty warned prosecutors that they had “been getting away with too much for too long” and that the South Carolina Supreme Court would “no longer overlook unethical conduct such as witness tampering, selective and retaliatory prosecutions, perjury and suppression of evidence,” and cautioned that prosecutors’ “bar licenses will be in jeopardy,” the main prosecuting authority in South Carolina—the attorney general—threatened to move to recuse Beatty in all criminal cases, citing bias.

I wrote about it last December, in “The pendulum has been swinging in the wrong direction for too long,” and Simple Justice’s Scott Greenfield wrote about it in “The hit dog hollers.”  Following Beatty’s comments, thirteen of South Carolina’s sixteen solicitor’s offices, including the Ninth Circuit Solicitor, wrote to the state’s attorney general, in a much publicized letter seeking the attorney general’s support in seeking the recusal of Justice Beatty in all matters involving criminal cases or ethics complaints against prosecutors.  The attorney general replied in another public letter, sympathizing with the solicitors over the justice’s unfortunate comments and agreeing to seek his recusal where appropriate.

S.C. Senator Larry Martin was quoted in the Charleston Post and Courier as saying the justice’s remarks were inappropriate and intimidating, and that, although there may be isolated cases of prosecutorial misconduct in the state, “I don’t believe it is a major problem.” The South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (SCACDL) issued a press release in response to the Solicitor’s public letter, questioning why “prosecutors in this state get so upset when they are reminded that they have an ethical duty not to win at any costs, but rather to administer justice.”

Since then, SCACDL sent it’s own letter to the state’s attorney general, outlining a series of specific examples of alleged ethical misconduct in just one state solicitor’s office in the 9th circuit and asking the attorney general, in keeping with his constitutional obligation to supervise all prosecutions in the state of South Carolina, to investigate the allegations of misconduct in the 9th Circuit Solicitor’s Office.  The 9th Circuit Solicitor responded with a press release that disputed the “version of events” outlined in the allegations.

The Attorney General’s office has responded in a brief letter that does not address the allegations but rather punts the issue, declaring that “the Attorney General’s Office is not equipped with the resources to conduct these types of investigations.”

Full disclosure: I am currently the president of SCACDL, and I struggled with whether I should write about this on Trial Theory.  I want to be clear that on this blog, I do not speak for SCACDL and this blog is in no way associated with the organization.  However, I do feel that this is a critical criminal law issue in our state and nationwide, and it is important for criminal defense lawyers and prosecutors to continue the conversation.

Edit:  Radley Balko also has an article at the Washington Post.

4 Responses to “The latest on the Beatty controversy/ prosecutorial misconduct in South Carolina

  • Has anything been done at the AG’s level on this case with Beatty controversy?

  • The official PANDORA'S BOX
    5 years ago

    In the state of south carolina solicitors and county prosecutors are criminals and the attorney general is their public defender, defending their behavior no matter how gross and unconstitutional it is. This consistent support afforded to these solicitors do more than strip sc citizens of their God given RIGHTS, it encourages solicitors to continue in their illegal ways. Unethical behavior is and has been a well known trend among solicitors in south carolina and the state court judges turn a blind eye bc they too are a part of many of these unconstitutional acts. Solicitors in south carolina have been illegally and unlawfully procuring “True Bill” indictments against its very own citizens by the thousands. Primarily they target the black community and economically challenged whites. Proof of this has been procured and will be made public VERY soon, this state will continue to hide it and keep it hush hush unless it’s shown to the world. “True Bill” indictments are allegedly being returned by grand juries in south carolina, contrary to south carolina state law and sc supreme court precedent, inasmuch as no court of general sessions was even in session in numerous counties on the date(s) published in prisoners indictments. Certified true copy court calendars confirm this atrocity and this behavior is tantamount to kidnapping. The attorney general, the countys’ clerk of courts, the sc court administration and criminal defense lawyers agree that “the grand jury proceedings are secretive therefore they are not recorded nor transcribed, yet true Bill indictments are popping up in many counties at around a thousand in a single day’s session….but there’s no court even opened on these days! Where are these solicitors doing this at? Their homes? In their cars? At Wal-Mart? Are they buying these true bill indictments online? It doesn’t even matter,its all illegal and the world will soon learn of this. The attorney general has been defending this prosecutorial misconduct and state court judges have been allowing this illegal unethical widespread epidemic knowing the relevant violations of state statutory laws 14-9-210, 14-9-170, 16-17-735 and sc state constitutional mandates in state v. McClure and state v. Funderburk, which results in solicitors committing intrinsic/ extrinsic fraud, criminal conspiracy, subordination of perjury, criminal conspiracy against public policy, and perjury. Citizens in south carolina have been enduring this systematic process of illegal prosecutions far too long, but now we rise. Remember the name “THE OFFICIAL PANDORA’S BOX”, and much thanks to Justice Beatty and to the publisher of this article that inspired my comment

    • Whoa! This is alarming! SC is really showing it’s true colors lately. How is it that they have been getting away with this type of activity so long? Something needs to be done. The citizens of SC (as well as nationwide) need to be informed of such. I will definitely share this article via social media outlets. I will also alert family members that are on a constant quest for legal counsel for their loved ones. Lady Justice is indeed blindfolded in the state of SC!!!!

    • Justiceisknocking!
      2 years ago

      Is it possible to speak with you about thus matter? I have copious evidence to show and support that SC is indeed committing prosecutorial misconduct against minorities. And the AG is at the forefront leading the charge.

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