As the economy continues to grind to a halt amid the coronavirus pandemic, the chief justice of the South Carolina Supreme Court took a demonstrative step in favor of renters statewide. On March 17, Chief Justice Donald Beatty ordered a temporary stop on all evictions statewide. As reported by Joseph Cranney at The Post and Courier, it was a move that advocates had been pleading for, saying it would benefit vulnerable populations at a time a dangerous strain of coronavirus continues to spread across the world, nation and South Carolina, leading to the temporary shuttering and scaling back of many businesses. “The order from … Beatty postpones eviction court proceedings until May 1,” Cranney reports. “It allows for exceptions in cases of emergency actions involving threats to property or health. Other states hit hard by the virus — including New York, Massachusetts and Kentucky — have issued similar stays.” Beatty has also postponed jury trials in South Carolina during a time in which officials at all levels of government have been encouraging social distancing. Advocates for the poor praised Beatty’s evictions measure. “That kind of a pause on evictions, even for six weeks, is going to be huge,” says Appleseed Legal Justice Center director Sue Berkowitz.
New trial granted in infamous Five Points shooting
In 2013, then-University of South Carolina student Martha Childress was shot while out in Five Points. An inadvertent victim of the shooting, she was left paralyzed from the waist down, and now uses a wheelchair. Now the South Carolina Supreme Court has reversed the attempted murder conviction of the man who fired the shot, and has granted him a new trial. According to reporting from Joseph Cranney at The Post and Courier, Michael Juan Smith has said he was defending himself from rival gang members when he fired the shot that inadvertently hit Childress during the widely reported incident in Columbia’s preeminent college nightlife district. “Because prosecutors did not dispute that self-defense claim during Smith’s six-day trial in 2015, they forfeited their legal ground to argue to a jury that Smith intended to harm Childress, the high court ruled,” Cranney writes. Now Smith will get a new trial. He had been sentenced to four decades behind bars on attempted murder and other charges. Childress, who later graduated from USC, had been standing with friends waiting on a taxi when she was truck by the stray bullet.
Gamecock women finish No. 1 in AP poll
Give them a damn banner. The University of South Carolina women’s basketball team on March 18 officially finished No. 1 in the final Associated Press poll for the 2019-20 season. Coach Dawn Staley’s squad will go down as perhaps the biggest “what might have been” case in the school’s athletic history. The Gamecocks finished with an overall record of 32-1. They won the regular season Southeastern Conference title, and the SEC Tournament. They knocked off a host of nationally ranked teams through the course of the year, including Mississippi State, Texas A&M and even longtime nemesis UConn. The Gamecocks spent the final 10 weeks of the season as the nation’s No. 1 team. However, because the NCAA Tournament was canceled amid the growing COVID-19 pandemic, the squad did not get a chance to see through what many believed could be a championship season. USC Athletics Director Ray Tanner wouldn’t say whether the Gamecocks would claim a title based on the polls. “I will add that we were on quite a run and, if I’m not mistaken, we were 32-1, we were ranked number one in both the polls, and we won a regular season title and the tournament championship. So in my mind, we’re number one,” Tanner says, per The State. Number one, indeed. And no one can take that away.