Is this really the year South Carolina becomes the first state to put the death row back on the agenda?
The question remains open, but South Carolina has the power to decide.
And in this case, the answer may be yes.
The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Monday that the state’s constitution doesn’t allow for capital punishment in the case of Jeffrey Miller, the man convicted of murdering his wife and three of their six children.
Miller, who served time for the murders of his wife, daughter and stepdaughter, was exonerated in a 2008 exoneration after DNA testing showed he was not the killer.
Now, the governor is fighting to get the death sentence overturned.
“I think it’s a terrible decision to have the governor and the South Carolina legislature overturn the convictions of innocent people,” said Michael Hiltzik, a spokesman for the Governor’s office.
“But we have to take this case seriously, and we’ll be doing everything we can to get it overturned.
South Carolina is a great place to be an innocent person, and the state deserves better.”
The governor has already said he will appeal the decision, and a state appellate court is expected to take up the matter in the next two months.
The state has one of the lowest exoneration rates in the country.
The Supreme Court’s decision also doesn’t affect the death sentences of two men convicted in the murder of a police officer in 2012 and the murder last year of a state trooper.
In both cases, the courts found that there was enough evidence to convict the defendants.
Miller was found guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated murder, voluntary manslaughter and other counts in the 2011 deaths of his parents, mother and six siblings.
Prosecutors said he was guilty of voluntary manslaughter for shooting and killing his father and stepmother.
He was convicted of first degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
In each case, his lawyers argued that the death-penalty system was unfair.
Miller said he doesn’t believe his innocence.
“To be the first person to be sentenced to death in my lifetime and to be exonerated, I am truly thankful,” he said in a statement.
“To me, that’s the most important thing in the world.”
Miller’s lawyers have argued that South Carolina’s capital punishment system unfairly punishes minorities who are less likely to be innocent.
The legislature has also sought to undo that inequity, by increasing the number of inmates serving life without parole.
The governor has said he supports that, but he’s not willing to take the drastic step of overturning Miller’s convictions.
Miller, who was born in the state of South Carolina and was an active member of the military before his release, is currently incarcerated in the prison in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and awaiting trial for the third-degree murders of the four children and the woman he killed.
He has a prior conviction for the kidnapping of a 16-year-old girl, and he was found not guilty of a felony rape charge stemming from the 2005 death of the 16-month-old in his care.