Cup of Justice co-host, Eric Bland, talks about this week’s SCVAN Victims Matter Rally and adds two new words to the Law Library.


Hey there Premium Members. EB here giving you the weekly weekend update. We attended the South Carolina Victims Rally at the Statehouse. I saw Mandy and David; David was acting like he was Eric Alan with all the video equipment and recording equipment. I saw Sandy Smith. It was a wonderful turnout, beautiful spring morning. Sarah Ford puts on this event and it was incredibly powerful. Mr. And Mrs. Smalls spoke, they’re the parents of the University of North Carolina football player and student who was killed in 2002 by Jeroid Price. We all know that name because last spring he had been convicted of killing the Smalls’ son in 2002, and received the 35 year sentence, day for day, no chance of parole, and then we found out that a secret order was signed by Judge Casey Manning, it wasn’t recorded in the clerk’s office. It was done with the assistance of the Fifth Circuit Solicitor Byron Gibson. And of course, Jeroid Price’s defense attorney, Todd Rutherford.

Mr. or Mrs. Smith spoke so eloquently. He talked about that victims are part of a family, a family that nobody wants to be part of. They understand how that the system can leave them behind, that the system looks at them as an afterthought. One of the big issues was the funding for the South Carolina Victims Network, which Sarah Ford is part of and Lauren Hudson, who is actually the pioneer, I met her this morning and I posted a photo of her. Just an incredible lady who’s been fighting for victims for over 30 years or more. David Pascoe, who was a solicitor and spoke, talked about that she was pushing for victims rights even before there was a statutory acknowledgement of victims rights. And there is a groundswell movement or a movement in the statehouse, to cut the funding both on the federal and state level, federal dollars that are received for victims assistance, so that victims can be part of the criminal justice process and not an afterthought. And there was loud voices screaming that this funding must remain in place. Alan Wilson spoke, the Attorney General, and he spoke forcefully. He talked about how much victims are important to his work and the cases that the AG does and that the victims should not be forgotten. He was all for the funding; he actually was inside the State House lobbying for the funding to continue. 

David Pascoe told the story of Jeroid Price, he was the one who prosecuted Jeroid Price and it was incredible when he was released from New Mexico last March, the Smalls weren’t even told about it until two hours before he was released. And he was the leader of one of the most vicious gangs in the South Carolina area. And David Pascoe said when he prosecuted him, he had to literally be escorted from the courthouse to his car, to the car to his house. Never before had he done that. And Jeroid Price was led out and fortunately, enough people spoke up and Jeroid Price was found. Our Supreme Court held that he was not going to be granted this early release  and has been put out back in prison to serve the remainder of his 35 year sentence. And it was that very act that was the genesis for the public saying that we must stop the judicial screening, where lawyer legislators are picking these judges and then lawyer legislators like Todd Rutherford appear before the very judges that they are selecting. And so last week, you know, there was some reformation proposed by the Senate, the State Senate, it hasn’t gone through the House yet in our state legislature, where the governor would pick people to serve on the judicial selection committee, and there would be more candidates that would go before the lawyer committee, the committee that would include still some lawyer legislators, before they would be able to select the judge. 

So there was some reformation, but it was not getting the lawyer legislators off the selection committee. The Senate proposes that they have four year terms and not unlimited terms, so it is a step in the right direction, not sure what the house is going to do. Hopeful the house will make it more robust and, and get these lawyer legislators off the committee selecting judges, once and for all. 

So we heard from Sarah Ford this morning, we heard from other victims advocates, it was a beautiful thing.  It’s not just the people that are hurt, it’s the families that are left behind. Mr. Smalls talked about, even today, you know, if a song comes on the radio that reminds him of his son, or there was a favorite song of his son’s, he literally pulls over and he’s paralyzed, he can’t drive. And so this affects these surviving victims for the rest of their lives. It’s it really is when you sit and think about it, the victims are the ones that the criminal justice system should be paying the most attention to. And listening to them listening to whether they want a stronger sentence or more leniency or what their feelings are on parole or early release, they should be included in the process. 

So I saw Sandy Smith this morning, I posted a photo of Sandy standing strong, standing alone, standing for Stephen. She’s at every one of these rallies. Alan Wilson spoke some very strong words but we want to make sure that he follows through on these words. He agreed that he would meet with Sandy Smith, and we’re going to hold him to it to hear what Sandy has to say. As everyone knows, we continue to fight and try to get information from SLED regarding the Stephen Smith investigation, that is our hope that this year of 2024 is the year that we find the answers that Sandy Smith deserves about what happened to Stephen. So it just really was a wonderful, wonderful public event that I thought was well served, well attended, certainly the state house heard it by having all of these victims advocates and them setting up their booths on the Statehouse grounds, the politicians can’t help but notice it. We’re going to be doing a podcast for a Cup of Justice this week. We’re going to talk more about the Colucci case. 

And with that, we’ll now go to class, go to the Law Library. We’re going to talk about two terms today. One is hung jury and the other is liquidated versus unliquidated damages. So you always hear the term, and it’s specific specifically for the Colucci case, hung jury. That is when a jury is unable to reach a unanimous verdict, whether it’s unanimous for guilt, or unanimous for not guilty. And in our state, you have to have unanimity whether it’s a six person jury or 12 person jury, all 12 or all six jurors have to be unanimous, whether it’s guilt or not guilty. In some states, they have a 10-2 requirements. So two people can disagree and 10 people can agree and that would be a verdict. But in our state, it is unanimous. So a hung jury would be the inability of the jurors to reach a unanimous decision. And so oftentimes you’ll hear the jury come out and they’ll pass a note to the judge and say, Judge, we’re hopelessly deadlocked. You hear those terms, “hopelessly deadlocked.” Deadlocked meaning that they can’t agree on a unanimous verdict. And what the judge does is, he or she will give what’s known as the Allen charge, or a dynamite charge, and that is: he or she will instruct the jury, look, we have spent a fortune of money on this trial. The parties themselves obviously couldn’t work this out, there wasn’t a plea of guilt, or there wasn’t a civil settlement and you are the 12 people who are responsible for ending this dispute. So I want you to go back into the jury room, I want you to open your minds up, I want you to listen to those that disagree with you. I want you to have a free exchange of ideas. But don’t be closed minded and work towards a unanimous agreement. Now, a defendant in a criminal defendant case hates when a judge gives the dynamite charge, because they want either a not guilty verdict or a hung jury. And if it’s a hung jury, a true hung jury where the judge declares it’s a missed trial because they couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, oftentimes, that case will be retried. For instance, John Gotti, the legendary mafioso in New York, he had like three or four hung juries before they finally were able to convict him on the fifth trial. And if it’s a notorious case, they will go back and retry it. So can you imagine, in, for instance, the Alex Murdaugh case, where there was seven weeks of trial, and if the jury actually came back and said, look, we can’t render a verdict. There’s, you know, eight people that are one way and four people the other, the judge would probably give one dynamite charge to let them go back. 

Sometimes if it’s an 11-1, and I’ve had cases where there’s been a hung jury on 11-1 where there’s just a holdout juror, and they refuse to listen to reason, they don’t believe the government or they think that nobody should be awarded money if it’s a civil case, the judge will keep sending the jury back and I have seen a judge give three dynamite charges, believe it or not, before a verdict was ultimately reached, or there was a mistrial declared. And usually when the verdict’s reached after a dynamite trial, it’s a compromise verdict. It may not be for murder, it could be for a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. It may not be for a million dollars, it may be that the other 11 jurors have to compromise down to get this person to award some money. So it may have been that there were 10 or 11 jurors that wanted to award a million dollars, one or two jurors that wanted to only award $50,000, and they compromise on $200,000. So that’s the term when you hear hung jury. 

Now liquidated versus unliquidated damages is really fixed versus unfixed damages. And so what does that mean? So if I borrow $1,000 from Sam, and Sam agrees that she’s going to repay me $1,200 by the end of the year, if the end of the year comes and Sam doesn’t repay me, I can sue her for breach of contract for the $1,200. And that is a liquidated or fixed amount. And if Sam doesn’t respond to the complaint and goes in default, the clerk of court can enter a judgment in my favor for the $1,200. But an unliquidated amount is not a fixed amount. So if I get in an automobile accident, and I’m sorry I keep using Sam as an example, but I love her and you know, we’re like brother and sister. So Sam runs into me. I’m sitting at a red light, minding my own business, she runs a red light, boom, she t-bones me, and I get injured. And I have to get surgery on my shoulder and my back. And the medical bills are in the hundreds of 1000s of dollars. But I got pain, suffering, I got lost wages, I have loss of future income, scarring, embarrassment, all these things. Well, that’s a not fixed amount. If I sue Sam, and Sam doesn’t answer the complaint, the clerk of court can only enter a default, that Sam defaulted. But then I would have to have an actual damages hearing to really have a court determine what are those damages those unliquidated unfixed amount, because they have to determine what my loss incomes is, what my loss of future income is, what my pain and suffering is worth, what my scarring is worth. All these things are not fixed. So a clerk of court couldn’t enter a judgment for a monetary amount, because that would be subject to a damages hearing. So liquidated versus unliquidated simply means it’s a fixed amount of damages, I’m suing for a fixed amount, whether it’s $1,000, $1,200 or $10,000. And an unliquidated amount is an unfixed or unknown amount that has to be determined based on testimony. 

So with that said, EB out.  

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