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State v. Moore, Slip OP. No. 2016-Ohio-8288—Ohio Supreme Court reverses 112-year sentence for juvenile because “functional equivalent” of life without parole sentence.

December 26th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

It’s important to keep an eye on how other states are handling this very important issue.  In South Carolina, in Tyrone Aiken v. Byars, 410 S.C. 534, 765 S.E.2d 572 (2014) our Supreme Court recognized what the United States Supreme Court held in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455 (2012)—that Life without Parole sentences for juveniles (even in homicide cases) are unconstitutional without an individualized sentencing proceed

State v. Walter Bash, HUGE WIN in the SCSCt on a Fourth Amendment Claim, and Reaffirming the Sanctity of the Curtilage.

December 21st, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

UPDATE:  On March 15, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court substituted this opinion to clarify that circuit court did not rely on the officers' subjective intent to determine whether the officers conducted a search, and that the officers' objective purpose is the proper inquiry.  YAY!   THE GREAT WIN STAYS IN PLACE! Excellent win by Susan Hackett of the Office of Indigent Defense!  Here, the police received an anonymous

Parole, a Meaningful Chance at Freedom

December 15th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

As a criminal defense lawyer, I’ve had the privilege of representing a few inmates for their parole hearings. I put together affidavits, letters from supporters, speak to family members about living arrangements and potential employers about money making opportunities.  I review the case and analyze a client’s institutional history.  Then, I put these elements together to present to the parole board to make the case why my client should be

Post-Conviction Relief Hearings, How to Raise and Preserve Your Winning Issues Under the Current System

December 4th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

In my opinion, the post-conviction relief (PCR) system in South Carolina is completely and utterly broken for the vast majority of inmates. Under the Commission of Indigent Defense’s relatively new system, attorneys contract with that agency to take these cases. For their efforts, they receive a flat sum of $800. That’s it. And they’re not allowed to bill for mileage or other ordinary expenses. They can request funding for an investigator,

Nicandor Rodriguez v. Bush, Appellate No. 14-7297, 15-6716 (4th Cir, filed Nov. 23, 2016), Federal Habeas Loss b/c No Fed Right to Plea

November 29th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Before Rodriguez’s state criminal trial, the trial judge rejected a plea agreement between him and the Solicitor.  The judge gave no other reason other than stating he “was ready to try a case.”  Trial counsel did not object on the record.  Rodriguez’s claim is that trial counsel rendered IAC in failing to do so.  He sought federal habeas relief. After trial, Rodriguez received a 45-year sentence.  He filed for post-conviction rel

State v. Devin Johnson (App. Case No. 2014-766, filed Nov. 16, 2016) South Carolina Court of Appeals win on Jury Charge and Argument Claim!

November 28th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Outstanding advocacy by Susan Hackett of the Office of Indigent Defense!  This is an interesting case.  The victim was shot and killed.  Having given conflicting statements, the appellant ultimately admitted to being present at the scene with another person who was never identified. At the end of the evidence, the parties had a jury charge conference where they discussed which jury instructions would be given to the jurors.  The State requ

State v. Nathaniel Witherspoon, App. Case No. 2016-306, filed November 2, 2016), REVERSAL based on Improper Victim No-Corroboration Rule

November 18th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

This case serves to remind the bench and bar that S.C. Code 16-3-657, which provides that in a sexual assault case the victim’s testimony need not be corroborated is confusing and an unconstitutional comment on the facts by the presiding judge. In State v. Stukes, 416 S.C. 493, 787 S.E.2d 480 (2016), the South Carolina Supreme Court expressly overruled precedent condoning the use of section 16-3-657 as a jury charge and provided that t

Dennis LeBlanc v. Randall Methena (4th Cir. November 7, 2016)“Meaningful” Chance at Parole for Juvenile LWOP’ers

November 7th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

An update on this opinion out of the United States Supreme Court today, June 11, 2017.  Virginia , et al. v. Dennis LeBlanc, 582 U.S.___ (2017). Today the full Court, per curiam, reversed the Fourth Circuit because it found the Fourth Circuit did not accord the Virginia trial court's ruling, which was based on an earlier Virginia Supreme Court ruling, sufficient deference and because that ruling was not objectively unreasonable.  

State v. Alexander L. Hunsberger, A S.C. S. Ct. WIN on a Speedy Trial Issue! (filed October 12, 2016).

October 17th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Excellent work (of course) by Susan Hackett and Kat Hudgins. Although this is the published opinion, the Court also granted relief to this appellant’s brother who also raised the same issue. So, excellent result for both defendants. Too, read together with State v. Langford, 400 S.C. 421 (2012), cert denied 134 S. Ct. 60 (2013), it looks like our state courts are beginning to give these speedy trial issues the attention they h

Joseph Reddy v. Kelly, 2016 WL 5403918 (6th Cir., filed September 28, 2016). Non-capital Habeas Win on IAC Claim!

October 10th, 2016
Elizabeth Franklin-Best

Reddy was convicted of the aggravated murder of his mother.  At sentencing, Reddy’s lawyer asked the court to consider evidence that Reddy suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which had not been offered at trial.  On appeal, Reddy argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his aggravated murder conviction, and that counsel was ineffective for failing to introduce the PTSD evidence at trial.  The Ohio appellate court

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