After a jury deliberated for 12 hours in the death of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white South Carolina police chief, they told the judge on Monday that they couldn’t reach a decision.
Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson declared a mistrial early Tuesday. Nine jurors voted to convict Former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs who was charged after shooting Bernard Bailey three times in 2011.
Prosecutor David Pascoe said he plans to try Combs again.
“I’m going to take a little time, but we’re going forward,” Pascoe said.
“We just had three jurors we couldn’t convince,” he said.
Defense attorney Wally Fayssoux, maintains that Combs is innocent, according to the Associated Press.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t get a result, but I think both sides feel that way,” Fayssoux said.
The shooting happened after Combs was trying to arrest Bailey on an obstruction of justice warrant which prosecutors contended was trumped up.
The Post and Courier reported:
Combs, 38, is the third white officer in South Carolina to be charged this year for an on-duty shooting involving an unarmed black man.
Combs shot Bailey during a May 2, 2011, confrontation in the parking lot of Eutawville’s Town Hall. The shooting occurred after Combs tried to arrest Bailey on an obstruction of justice warrant stemming from a dispute the two men had over a ticket Combs had issued to Bailey’s daughter for a broken tail light.
The 6-foot-6-inch Bailey stalked off, and Combs chased after him, jumping into the open door of Bailey’s truck as he tried to back out of the lot, authorities said. During the scuffle that followed, Bailey was shot twice in the chest and once in the shoulder.
You see how you’re not allowed to be black and tall?
Last month, the judge said that Combs appeared to have initiated the altercation with Bailey when he had less perilous alternatives for serving the warrant on Bailey, who posed no threat to the public.
“There was no need for Mr. Combs to act as he did on May 2, 2011, when Mr. Bailey refused service, as Mr. Combs expected would happen,” the judge stated in December. “Mr. Combs should have allowed Mr. Bailey to leave and enlisted the assistance of other officers or served the warrant at court as he originally planned.”
Jurors were given the choice between murder and voluntary manslaughter.
Murder carries 30 years to life in prison without parole. Voluntary manslaughter carries two to 30 years in prison, and would have meant Bailey’s killing was illegal but happened in the heat of the moment.
Pascoe argued that Combs could have stepped away from the truck door, but instead he chose to stand there and fire three shots into Bailey.
Pascoe said several things made it clear the truck was stopped and Bailey was trying to give up: The victim’s foot was on the brake, and three shell casings were found close together along with Combs’ dropped handcuffs.
Combs’ lawyer said all that mattered was that the chief feared for his life during the three seconds it took before he opened fire on Bailey.
Bailey, 54, was a retired prison guard, known to most in the small town as a hard working man. Some folks in the small town populated by 300 people don’t see this as a racially motivated shooting, but as a matter of bad policing. The town reached a $400,000 wrongful death settlement with Bailey’s family.
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