S.C. prosecutors seek recusal of supreme court justice from all criminal cases for critical remarks

Thirteen of South Carolina’s 16 state prosecutors are seeking the recusal of South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Donald Beatty from all criminal appeals for remarks he allegedly made at a conference of prosecutors in September.

Beatty allegedly told the audience of prosecutors that they had been “getting away with too much for too long,” and said that the high court would no longer turn a blind eye to unethical conduct by prosecutors, the Post and Courier reports.

“For too long we have looked the other way but that’s over,” the newspaper quoted Beatty as saying. “We are not just going to overturn convictions; we are going to take your licenses.”

Prosecutors contend that Beatty’s remarks demonstrate a clear bias against prosecutors and that Beatty cannot be counted on to be impartial in his rulings.

However, a group of state criminal defense lawyers have rushed to the justice’s defense.

In a statement (PDF) released Nov. 27, the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers questioned why prosecutors would “get so upset” when they are reminded that they have an ethical duty not to win at any cost, but to administer justice.

“As the saying goes, a hit dog will holler,” the statement said.

Neither Beatty nor Chief Justice Jean Toal could be reached for comment. State Attorney General Alan Wilson, in a letter to prosecutors last month, expressed concern over what he called Beatty’s “unfortunate remarks” and said he was researching the disqualification issue.

Updated at 5:13 p.m. to correct the newspaper’s name to the Post and Courier.

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