Oh, South Carolina
It really isn’t easy to win civil rights cases in South Carolina, and here’s a good example of why. Horton v. City of Columbia was decided just this past February 26, 2014 by our Court of Appeals. Ms. Horton, who apparently lived up in Marlboro County, had the sad misfortune of having a fingerprint that looked similar, according to law enforcement, to one that was found on the exterior of a recently burglarized Roly Poly store . . . in Columbia (roughly a two hour drive). Officer Currie of the Columbia Police Department called Ms. Horton’s probation agent and her probation agent expressed skepticism that she may be the thief based on her newly birthed baby (number three!) and her lack of transportation. Undaunted, Currie sought a warrant for her arrest, she was promptly picked up in Bennettsville, processed (but not fingerprinted!), and spent the next few days at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center away from her three children until someone got around to actually taking her fingerprints which then excluded her as a suspect. For all her troubles, her case was kicked out of court. And here’s why– the Court of Appeals invoked the “two issue rule” which is really a way of punishing Ms. Horton’s lawyers for neglecting to appeal one of the bases upon which the trial court judge ruled. Because the issue of the City’s Tort Claims Immunity was not briefed, it became a sustaining ground for the conviction. So, she loses there. But then, the Court goes on to find that there was probable cause for her arrest, even though Currie failed to mention the probation agent’s skepticism, recent baby and lack of transportation, to the magistrate. The Court found that, even if he had, there still would have been probable cause for her arrest, even though it was an erroneous identification of her fingerprint. So, again Ms. Horton loses. A very recent case, I hope that Ms. Horton’s lawyers seek cert with the South Carolina Supreme Court.