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Friday, January 16, 2015

Mistrial Allows South Carolina Police Chief to Get Murder Charge Dropped

L: Bailey Family photo,
R: Reuters/The Times and Democrat/Larry Hardy
Amanda Warren

An ongoing story concerning a former South Carolina police chief who killed an unarmed man has recently received a great deal of national attention. Much of the press, even in the alternative media, has been positive because it marks one of the rare times an officer even makes it into the courtroom after taking a life.

Any hopeful expectations of justice came crashing down, however, when on Tuesday morning a hung jury prompted the judge to declare a mistrial.

Bernard Bailey had come to his daughter's assistance when now ex-police chief Richard Combs pulled her over for a broken tail light in 2011. Unbeknownst to Bailey, Combs had taken out an arrest warrant on Bailey for obstruction of justice. He sat on it for seven weeks until....

Bailey was at Eutawville Town Hall for his daughter's court appearance regarding the tail light. This is when, according to Combs, he announced he had a warrant and was going to arrest Bailey, and when Bailey began to walk toward his pickup truck in the Town Hall parking lot, which is also outside the police station.

The scene quickly escalated to the ultimate death of Bailey - Combs shot him three times while Bailey remained in the driver seat of his truck. Combs was standing in front of the truck door, claiming that the vehicle was moving and he "feared for his life."

Defense argued that it was the three seconds during the killing and Combs' fear for his life that mattered most in the trial, not anything leading up to that point or afterward. 

A passionate argument, however, comes from the Prosecution side with attorney David Pascoe who said:
He thought he got away with it because he wears a badge. Prove him wrong.
He argued adamantly that this was murder, laced with malice and some forethought. Bailey's foot was on the brake, he himself surrendered. Why did Combs keep changing his story? Why did he sit on the warrant and wait until the day of the daughter's appearance to spring an arrest on Bailey? Another argument centered on forethought with the warrant and for Combs' plan to show off for colleagues. Why did he not ask for help from deputies when he went after Bailey? Why did he not jump out of the way of the truck? He also hinted that cops receive more protection from crimes - because they are cops.

At first jurors had a choice of a murder charge (30-year sentence, no parole), voluntary manslaughter (2-30 years), or acquittal But on Monday, Judge Dickson authorized the voluntary manslaughter charge. After hours and hours of deliberation, the jury decided a guilty verdict 9-3. Never reaching full agreement, a mistrial was called.
If Bailey was truly this menacing obstructer of justice, the police chief of all people, had all the authority in the world to arrest him on the spot. He didn't arrest Bailey on the spot, instead, he waited until Bailey's daughter's court appearance - to make great dramatic show of it. That - is willful intent. At the very least intent to create a confrontation where a psychopathic cold blooded killer can then use a badge and a weapon to finish off an unarmed man sitting in a truck. It is entirely plausible that Combs had it the back of his mind, the entire time, to show Bailey who's boss for whatever perceived challenge to authority he saw in Bailey.

While many in the alternative media have been criticizing the judge for calling a mistrial, the true guilt lies with the three members of the jury who let a killer go, when a clear case not only exists for voluntary manslaughter, but a case also exists for murder.

At the end of the day, nine people saw it for what it was - murder. But three people actually voted with their consciences despite the evidence because they could not get past the authoritative, shiny badge. A similar mistrial took place in May 2014 where an officer clearly used the pepper spray point blank into a woman's eye with such constant force that the stream cut through her eye into her skull. Her eye was destroyed into pieces and she was left permanently blind with skull fracturing.

One can only hope that prosecution on Bailey's behalf makes it to a round two, as they plan, and that this time justice is served. It's really time to reach out to people who might one day serve on such juries and remind them that onsite executions of unarmed people are never acceptable to a free and peaceful society.


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