Nearly five months after a fiery hearing in front of the South Carolina Supreme Court, the court released a formal opinion containing a strong rebuke for retired fifth circuit judge L. Casey Manning for his decision to set convicted murderer Jeroid Price free in a secret order last December. 

Section 17-25-65 references the statute that allows for a sentence reduction when an inmate has provided substantial assistance to the state. Price’s attorney, Todd Rutherford — a lawyer-legislator who also sits on the Judicial Merit Selection Committee in South Carolina — claimed that Price provided assistance to the state by “saving” the life of two corrections officers and by alerting the department of corrections that an inmate named Jimmy Causey had escaped custody for the second time.

Manning was just days from retiring when he signed the secret order that would free Price 16 years before his 35-year-sentence for murdering USC football player Carl Smalls Jr was complete. After signing the order to reduce Price’s sentence on Dec. 30, he sealed the order and left the bench for the final time. 

Price was being housed in New Mexico at the time of the order, and was released from a prison there in March 2023. His release was not made public until April. SC Attorney General Alan Wilson appeared to be blindsided by the release and asked the Supreme Court to unseal the order before ultimately asking that the early release order would be voided — a request that the court granted. At that point, Price became a wanted man.

Two of the Supreme Court justices, George James and Chief Justice Donald Beatty dissented from the majority opinion. Their position is that because Fifth Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson agreed to the sentence reduction that the Supreme Court has no business undoing what a state official did. 

Price was apprehended in New York City on July 12 and taken into custody without incident. According to SCDC records, he is being housed at Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia.

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Beth Braden

Beth Braden is an award-winning journalist with experience covering government, education and crime and courts for more than 10 years. In addition to following breaking news and writing feature stories about life in her home state of Tennessee, her by-line appears on several internationally known websites.

Beth is passionate about communicating complex information in an easy-to-understand manner and she loves to pore over public records and court documents as she seeks out patterns and context to share with her audience. In her spare time, she enjoys quilting, strange museums, and good cups of coffee.