South Carolina
Victims of the State

11 Cases

Map of Counties

U.S. Cases


County:   Aiken   Charleston   Colleton   Dillon   Jasper
Lexington   Spartanburg   Sumter   Union   York

Aiken County, SC
L. D. Harris
Apr 28, 1946

L. D. Harris was convicted of murdering Edward L. Bennett and his wife.  The victims were killed at the country store and filling station they owned near the city of Aiken.  Bennett's last words were “A big negro shot me and robbed me.”  Harris, a slightly built Negro, came under suspicion some months after the murders following reports that he had a pistol and left for Nashville, TN shortly after the murders.  Following his arrest Harris was placed in a small cubicle during stifling heat, and police officers working in relays questioned him continuously for more than 48 hours.  One officer reportedly struck Harris with force, although the officer claimed he merely laid a hand on Harris's shoulder.  Eventually officers threatened to arrest Harris's mother for having stolen property.  Harris then took up the officers' offer and confessed in order to prevent his mother's arrest.

During the whole interrogation, Harris, an illiterate, was not told of his right to request a lawyer, his right to request a preliminary hearing, or his right to remain silent.  He was not warned that what he said might be used against him and was denied the benefit of consultation with friends and family.  He also had no contact with disinterested third parties.  At trial the judge instructed the jury that there was no evidence against Harris that would support a conviction if they found that his confession was not voluntary.

In 1949 the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Harris's conviction, ruling that the circumstances of his interrogation made his confession involuntary.  In 1957 a man originally suspected of the Bennett murders was arrested for similar murders.  He confessed to the Bennett murders and convinced authorities that his confession was genuine.  (Harris v. South Carolina) (ISI)  [7/09]

Charleston County, SC
Paul Mazzell
Oct 30, 1978

Paul Mazzell was convicted of the murder of Ricky Lee Seagraves.  Seagraves was abducted at gunpoint from a convenience store in Ladson.  He was not seen again for three years until police, acting on a jailhouse tip, dug up his bones from a shallow grave off of highway S.C. 61.  The tipster, Danny Hogg, said he abducted Seagraves on the orders of an associate named Paul Mazzell.  Hogg said he brought Seagraves to Mazzell who killed and buried him.  Because of Hogg's testimony, Mazzell was convicted of Seagraves's murder and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Hogg was given immunity in the case even though he failed a lie detector test.  Witnesses who had heard Hogg brag of killing Seagraves were not allowed to testify.  Even Hogg's wife gave the FBI a statement implicating Hogg as the killer. The trial judge gave improper instructions to the jury that Mazzell's attorney failed to challenge.  The instructions allowed the jury to convict Mazzell of murder even if they thought he was not present at the scene of the crime.  One juror was an uncle of a law enforcement agent who worked on the case.

Mazzell admitted being an accessory after the fact in that he helped to bury Seagraves.  Had he known that Seagraves was dead, he said there was no way he would he would have met with Hogg.  He did not contact authorities “because I ain't no damn rat.”  Mazzell has been called the kingpin of the Dixie Mafia and admits he is no saint.  “I ran some clubs, some gambling, and a little prostitution.”  Mazzell was paroled in 2005 at age 76.  A federal judge has also ordered a retrial because the trial judge had given the jury faulty instructions.  (City Paper) (Mazzell v. Evatt)  [4/07]

Charleston County, SC
Keith Bradley
May 2002

Keith Renard Bradley was convicted of murdering Miriam Leeks and sentenced to life in prison.  Leeks, a 37-year-old homeless woman, was found bludgeoned to death in a wooded area off of Willtown Road in Adams Run, SC.  Her body was wrapped in garbage bags and sheets.  Bradley's conviction was due to the testimony of two incentivized witnesses which contradicted testimony of the witness who reported the murder and who had no known incentive for coming forward.  All the other evidence in the case was exculpatory of Bradley.
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Colleton County, SC
Michael Linder
June 29, 1979

Michael Linder was sentenced to death for murdering Willie Peeples, a highway patrol officer.  Linder contended he acted in self-defense because the officer had groundlessly fired six shots at him.  At trial the prosecution presented expert witnesses who testified that the officer never fired his gun.  At a retrial the defense secured previously undisclosed ballistics evidence from the state crime lab and was able to prove that the officer had fired his gun and that the prosecution's witnesses had distorted other evidence to make it appear that Linder had been the aggressor.  Linder was acquitted at his retrial and released in 1981.  (NY Times)  [7/05]

Dillon County, SC
Warren Douglas Manning
Oct 29, 1988

Warren Douglas Manning was convicted of pistol whipping and shooting to death George T. Radford, a state highway trooper.  Manning was sentenced to death.  The trooper was shot at close range with his own revolver.  The defense argued that although the trooper arrested Manning for driving with a suspended license, Manning escaped when the officer stopped another car.  The defense also claimed that if Manning had shot the officer, he would have been covered in blood.  Witnesses who saw Manning minutes after the shooting noticed no blood on him.  A retrial resulted in a hung jury, but Manning was reconvicted at a third trial.  This reconviction was overturned and a fourth trial resulted in a mistrial.  At Manning's fifth trial, his new lawyer told the jury, “The law requires the state prove him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  Without that, the law says you cannot find him guilty.”  The fifth trial jury acquitted Manning of all charges.  [9/05]

Jasper County, SC
Roger Bostick
Mar 7, 1999 (Pineland)

Roger Bostick was convicted in 2001 of murdering his neighbor, 69-year-old Sarah Polite.  Polite served as the treasurer and secretary of her church. Typically, she would bring home a briefcase containing money from the church on Sunday for deposit at the bank on Monday.  On a Sunday afternoon she had been struck in the head with a blunt force object and her house was set on fire.  She died from smoke inhalation.

Two days after the murder, car keys and other items belonging to Polite were found on a burn pile at a nearby property belonging to Bostick's mother.  Specks of blood were found on Bostick's jeans which according to his attorney were “microscopic, not visible to the naked eyes except under very close inspection.” DNA analysis was performed on a sample of this blood. Analyst Nancy Skraba testified that while ninety-nine percent of the population could be excluded as contributing to the sample, she was unable to determine whether the blood sample actually came from Polite.  Evidence of gasoline was found on Bostick's shoes which was also used to start the fire in Polite's house.

Defense witnesses presented testimony which cast suspicion on Polite's son, Rudy.  According to one witness, Polite was upset that Rudy fixed everyone's car except hers, threw her keys at him, and then went inside her house. The witness saw Rudy drive off in a truck a few moments later. Rudy stated he left to go to an auto parts store to buy a part for his mother's car.  When he returned about an hour later, the house was engulfed in flames. Another witness testified that after Polite's body was brought out and placed on the ground, Rudy started to smoke a cigarete and “didn't express any emotion or feeling.”

At trial Bostick requested a directed verdict of aquittal due to insufficient evidence, but it was denied.  In 2011, the state supreme court ruled that trial court erred when it denied this request.  It found that the state's evidence had only raised a suspicion of guilt.  The ruling acquitted Bostick and he was subsequently released from prison.  (State v. Bostick) (Justice: Denied)  [12/11]

Lexington County, SC
Perry Mitchell
Dec 29, 1982 (Lexington)

Perry Mitchell was convicted of raping a 17-year-old girl at knifepoint.  DNA tests exonerated him in 1998.  (IP)  [10/05]

Spartanburg County, SC
Jesse Keith Brown
Dec 31, 1983

Jesse Keith Brown was sentenced to death for murdering John Horace McMillin, 63.  McMillin was shot during a robbery in his home near Fingerville.  The key evidence against Brown was the testimony of his half-brother, which was plagued with serious questions.  Brown's conviction was twice overturned.  He was acquitted at his third trial in 1989 when he presented new evidence that his half-brother was the true killer.  (PC)  [10/05]

Sumter County, SC
William Pierce
Dec 1970

William “Junior” Pierce was convicted of raping and murdering Margaret “Peg” Cuttino, 13, the daughter of a state senator.  Cuttino was reported missing on Dec. 18 and her body was found on Dec. 30.  Pierce, who had an IQ that “barely broke 70” and who was a known serial confessor, confessed to this murder apparently after being tortured by Sheriff “Red” Carter.  A document supports Pierce's contention that his confession was coerced by physical abuse consisting of burns, bruises, and cuts to his “privates.”

In order to convict Pierce the prosecution theorized that Cuttino was murdered on Dec. 18, but when her body was found, the sperm evidence was not much degraded and this evidence implied that she was not killed before Dec. 25.  Public disagreement with the verdict arose starting with an uncalled witness who allegedly saw Cuttino on the afternoon of Dec. 19.  The county coroner joined the opposition.  Because of new evidence that arose following the conviction, it is highly likely that Pierce would be acquitted if he could get a retrial, but getting a retrial because of new evidence is very difficult under South Carolina law.  New technology raised the possibility of DNA testing, but the authorities contend Hurricane Hugo destroyed the biological evidence in 1989.

Pierce is not a glamorous defendant, having been convicted, after confessing, of three murders in Georgia, perhaps because of techniques similar to those used by Sheriff Carter.  Public opposition to the verdict seems surprising since an acquittal would do little to free Pierce, but physical evidence that Cuttino was killed much later than Dec. 18 seems compelling and such a finding would exonerate Pierce.  (CrimeLibrary)  [9/05]

Union County, SC
Roger Dedmond
Mar 1967 (Gaffney)

Roger Dedmond was convicted of murdering his wife, Lucille, because of a police officer's testimony that he confessed.  Three months after his sentencing another man, Lee Roy Martin, confessed to the murder and led police to the personal belongings of all his victims including Lucille's car keys.  Martin was known as the “Gaffney Strangler” after having been charged in the strangulation deaths of three other Gaffney women.  Dedmond was subsequently released.  [10/05]

York County, SC
Billy Wayne Cope
Nov 29, 2001 (Rock Hill)

Billy Wayne Cope, a white man, was charged with beating, sexually assaulting, and murdering his 12-year-old daughter Amanda.  Amanda died at her family's Rich Street home in Rock Hill.  Police suspected Cope, as there were no signs of forced entry to their home.  After four days of interrogation while suffering from the stress of finding his daughter dead, Cope confessed to the crime.  Later DNA tests of the semen found inside Amanda matched a black man, James Edward Sanders, who had a history of break-ins involving sexual assaults.  Sanders had moved into Cope's neighborhood a few weeks before.  Instead of dropping the charges against Cope, police, not wanting to waste a coerced confession, merely added a conspiracy charge, despite the fact that no connection was established between Cope and Sanders.

As trial neared in 2004, Judge John C. Hayes III refused to sever Cope's trial from that of Sanders and thereby prevented Cope's defense from presenting evidence of Sanders' other crimes.  Sanders, who was released from prison before Amanda was killed, was charged with several York County crimes, including break-ins and a sexual assault that occurred after Amanda died.  At the conclusion of the trial, both Cope and Sanders were convicted of the crime.

The television news magazine Dateline NBC later produced a two-hour report about the case which Prosecutor Kevin Brackett called, “...a blatant, slanted, one-sided, hit piece designed to make us look bad.”  Brackett has since created a website in which he attempts to defend the conviction.  (TruthInJustice) (The Herald)  [12/05]