The Supreme Court of South Carolina, the highest court in South Carolina, will be coming to Furman University on Oct. 24 and 25 to hear four cases in McAlister auditorium. The five justices of The Supreme Court of South Carolina are Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty and Justices John W. Kittredge, John Cannon Few, George C. James, and David Garrison Hill.
Hosted by the Riley Institute, the hearings are a long-awaited speaker event; the session was originally scheduled in 2019 but postponed until 2023 due to the pandemic.
Approximately an hour and a half each, the hearings will be split between two days, with two occurring on Oct. 24 and two occurring on Oct. 25. The hearings for both days will begin at 10 a.m. and conclude at 1 p.m.
The first case that will be heard is State v. Gregg Pickrell, from 10 - 11:30 a.m. on Oct. 24. The original case, which went to trial in February 2021, involved a woman named Gregg Pickrell who shot Robert Lamont “Monty” Demary in her home on Sept. 11, 2014. According to the South Carolina Court of Appeals records, she explained that Demary “was previously employed by her and the two began a sexual relationship in 2008, which Pickrell maintained resulted in six years of physical abuse perpetrated by Demary.” After a domestic dispute over a “missing earring,” in which Pickrell claimed Demary threatened to kill her, Pickrell shot and killed him. Following an immunity hearing, Pickrell was denied immunity from prosecution, and during her subsequent trial, she was convicted of murder and sentenced to 35 years’ imprisonment.
In appealing her murder conviction, Pickrell asserted that the immunity court “erred in denying her immunity from prosecution” and that the court should not have allowed for “certain testimony from two law enforcement officers.” The South Carolina Court of Appeals, however, affirmed her murder conviction. The Supreme Court of South Carolina will now review the decision of the Court of Appeals at Furman after granting Pickrell’s petition for a writ of certiorari.
The second case that will be heard is Tony Young v. Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office from 11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m. on Oct. 24. According to a summary of the first hearing, Young was involved in a traffic accident in Greenwood County on Aug. 11, 2011 and was later transported to a hospital. On Aug. 16, 2011, during Young’s stay at the hospital, the Greenwood County Sheriff’s Office (GCSO) arrested him for felony DUI. Afterward, Young alleged that officers violated multiple policies and procedures during his booking at the Greenwood County Detention Center (GCDC). In a trial against GCSO and GCDC, he argued that a physician should have cleared his removal from the hospital; he also alleged that during his detainment, officers denied him his medication, forced him to remove his neck brace “in order to be photographed,” forced him to shower while injured, and improperly treated him with steroids.
According to case summaries provided by the S.C. Supreme Court, the jury “returned a verdict for the defendants, finding they were not grossly negligent in their treatment of Young.” Although Young appealed, the South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the ruling. Now, the Supreme Court of South Carolina will review the decision of the Court of Appeals after granting Young’s petition for a writ of certiorari.
The third case, which will be heard from 10-11:30 a.m. on Oct. 25, is State v. Mutekis Jamar Williams. According to the South Carolina Court of Appeals records, on July 12, 2015, Deputy Scott Brown of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office pulled Williams over for “going eighty-one miles per hour (mph) in a sixty-mph zone. During the traffic stop, Deputy Brown found a bag of cocaine weighing ‘in an amount 100 grams or more.’”
According to the case summaries provided by the S.C. Supreme Court, Williams was sentenced to a mandatory minimum 25 years’ prison sentence but appealed the conviction, “arguing that the trial court erred in failing to strike the arresting officer's testimony that Williams was in ‘constructive possession’ of the cocaine found in the trunk of the car.” The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction, stating that “the error was harmless because the testimony did not affect the outcome of Williams' trial.” The Supreme Court of South Carolina granted Williams’ petition for a writ of certiorari and will review the decision at Furman on Wednesday.
The final case will be heard from 11:30 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. on the same day, with the five justices hearing the case of United States of America, Plaintiff, v. Patrick Fitzgerald Clemons, Defendant. This is the only hearing of the four that concerns the progress of a case in the Court of Appeals, rather than a review of its previous rulings.
The Armed Criminal Act of 1984 states that a minimum 15 years’ prison sentence must be given to individuals found to illegally possess a firearm who also have three or more “violent felony or serious drug offense convictions.” According to the case summaries provided by the S.C. Supreme Court, however, Borden v. United States establishes that “felonies that have mental state requirement (also known as a mens rea) of recklessness or negligence” do not count for these previous convictions.
Using this case’s precedent, Patrick F. Clemons pled guilty to illegally possessing a firearm two months after the Borden v. United States ruling. According to the case summaries, “Clemons has two prior convictions” that fall under Criminal Domestic Violence of a High and Aggravated Nature and Assault and Battery Second Degree in South Carolina. The South Carolina Court of Appeals decided that, in order to rule if Borden v. United States could reduce Clemons' sentence, the Supreme Court of South Carolina will need to establish at Furman “what mental state is required” to commit felonies in these two categories.
The Supreme Court of South Carolina has provided detailed case summaries in advance of the event. The Riley Institute invites students and members of the public to attend all four hearings without an entry fee, but registration is requested. For any further information regarding the speaker event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.