Criminal Justice

Top South Carolina court vacates 'phantom order' granting early release of convicted murderer

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The South Carolina Supreme Court acted “in rare haste” when it vacated a judge’s secret order for the release of a convicted murderer 16 years before the end of his sentence, according to a published report.

The state supreme court vacated the early release of Jeroid John Price in a 3-2 order April 26. The state supreme court acted only two hours after a hearing on an emergency request by the state attorney general’s office, according to an article by the State.

Price was serving a 35-year sentence for the 2002 shooting death of college football player Carl Smalls Jr. The order for Price’s release was secretly issued in December 2022 with no notice to the public.

A now-retired judge signed what one of the justices called the “phantom order” to release Price because of his tip about a prison escape that went unnoticed by prison officials. The escaped prisoner was Jimmy Lee Causey, who had been convicted for holding a lawyer and his family at gunpoint during a home invasion. Because of the tip, Causey was quickly apprehended, according to the State.

Price’s lawyer, South Carolina State Rep. Todd Rutherford, a Democrat, told South Carolina justices that Price had provided “substantial assistance” to law enforcement, and his release was allowed under an exception to the mandatory sentencing law, the State reports. Sending Price back to prison would amount to a “death sentence” now that his law enforcement assistance is public, Rutherford argued.

The South Carolina Supreme Court ordered Price’s immediate detention. But his whereabouts last week were unknown. Rutherford urged Price to turn himself in, WIS News reported.

Hat tip to How Appealing, which linked to the State’s coverage and the state supreme court’s order.

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