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Former SC Police Chief May Be Retried After Murder Mistrial

Posted on Jan 14, 2015

First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe has announced his intent to retry former Eutawville police chief Richard Combs for murder. The case stems from a May 2, 2011, botched attempt to serve an arrest warrant on Bernard Bailey. Combs’ trial in Orangeburg County took over a week before ending in a mistrial when jurors told the judge they were hopelessly deadlocked after 12½ hours of deliberations.

The case arose when Bailey came to the Eutawville Town Hall to get a traffic court date changed for his daughter. When he arrived, Combs presented him with an arrest warrant for obstruction of justice related to Bailey’s conduct at the scene of his daughter’s traffic charge.

When Combs tried to serve the warrant at the town hall, Bailey got upset and walked out. The chief pursued, telling him he was under arrest and had to stop. Bailey continued to leave, getting in his pickup truck. Combs tried to handcuff him through the truck’s open door. According to defense testimony, the truck began to back up with Combs caught in the door. He testified he thought he’d be run over. Combs shot Bailey three times, killing him.

In the aftermath, Combs lost his job and the City settled with Bailey’s family in a wrongful death suit for $400,000.

The case was hard fought. Commendably, neither side made race an issue despite the fact Combs is white and Bailey was black.

The trial hinged on whether Combs acted in self-defense. Jurors worked hard to determine whether the State proved Combs guilty of murder or manslaughter. Deliberations began about 2:30 pm Monday, January 13, and stretched through the night until they declared a deadlock just after 2:00 a.m. Tuesday. As a result, the judge ordered a mistrial.

Afterward, lawyers for the parties disagreed about the nature of the jury’s split. Solicitor Pascoe stated jurors told him the vote was 9-3 for a conviction, without stating whether it was for murder or manslaughter. The defense understood the jury breakdown to be much closer: either 7-5 or a tie.

Regardless of the final outcome, no one summed it up better than defense attorney Wally Fayssoux: “There are no winners in this.”
 

Rob Usry
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Rob is a South Carolina personal injury and criminal defense lawyer.