The double murder prosecution against Lawrence R. Campbell in Greenville came to an abrupt end on the first day of his trial on Wednesday, July 16, 2014. He stood charged with the murder of his neighbors, Ben Anders, Sr. and Ben Anders, Jr., stemming from an argument while walking his dog in August 2012. According to investigators, Campbell shot them in the street in front of their home. Campbell always maintained he shot them in self-defense.
The prosecution’s case began to unravel the day before the trial, when the Solicitor’s Office obtained for the first time notes taken by a Greenville County Sheriff’s investigator from an interview with the only eyewitness. The Solicitor gave the notes to the defense the same day. But the interview occurred on the day of the incident, nearly two years before. According to reports, these notes contradicted other statements by the witness—even suggesting the witness had some involvement in the incident. In a later interview, Campbell’s defense lawyer stated he felt the notes indicated self-defense so clearly his client could have received immunity from prosecution.
How a 1963 United States Supreme Court Case Won the Day
The defense argued they were entitled to the contradictory statements before they got them. In response, the judge ruled to throw out the witness’s testimony and his statements to law enforcement. According to reports, the basis of the judge’s ruling was a 1963 United States Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland. That case requires the State to give a person accused of a crime all evidence that could help the defense. This includes evidence that can question the reliability of a witness, such as the contradictory statements made to law enforcement officers here.
When the judge threw out the testimony of the State’s key witness, the Solicitor could not go forward.
This firm was not involved in this case. But as concerned South Carolina criminal defense attorneys, we are gratified to see how honorably all the participants fulfilled their obligations despite the enormous stress in this case.
We commend the defense for fighting hard for their client.
We commend the Solicitor for immediately turning the notes over and deciding not to go forward in an extremely serious case where the evidence no longer supported it.
We commend the judge for making the tough call—but the right call—to enforce a citizen’s constitutional rights.
And regardless of the outcome, there is no joy over loss of life, even in self-defense. We hope both Mr. Campbell and the Anders family will be able to somehow move on from this tragedy.
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