Case has twists, turns on way to trial

Colin James Broughton has confessed to killing his aunt with a claw hammer in September of 2006.

MONCKS CORNER -- The death penalty case against Colin James Broughton, who stands accused of murdering his aunt in Cainhoy three years ago, is taking some odd twists as it heads to trial.

Broughton's attorney, Bill McGuire, wants to be excused from the case. Another defense attorney has been ordered not to speak in court. Circuit Judge Deadre Jefferson stepped aside from the case late last month.

All this before a jury is to be picked early next week.

Broughton, 25, is accused of using a claw hammer to beat and kill his aunt, Shirley Mae Birch, in September 2006. Her daughter also was assaulted, and $200 and a car were stolen from their mobile home.

Broughton has confessed to the crime, and pretrial pleadings show he repeatedly has offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life in prison.

But now his defense team is pointing to something that began as a minor technical issue and saying it has mushroomed into something that will prevent Broughton from getting a fair trial.

The issue began this summer when Charleston County Public Defender Ashley Pennington offered to have chief litigator Beattie Butler help out with Broughton's defense. Jefferson said Butler could pass notes and whisper in McGuire's ear but could not speak.

McGuire then filed a sworn pleading saying Jefferson's decision was "due to her personal issues with Mr. Butler. Upon information and belief ... she has falsely accused Mr. Butler of being untruthful and disingenuous with her in court."

He was appealing her ruling when things took a further twist.

According to his pleading, McGuire's boss, Patton Adams, the director of the S.C. Commission on Indigent Defense, asked McGuire to drop his request to add Butler to the defense team.

McGuire said in the pleading that he understood the request was initiated by Jefferson and relayed to Adams through S.C. Supreme Court Justice Jean Toal.

"It was further relayed that failure to waive the issue would anger Judge Jefferson, Jean Toal and the rest of the South Carolina Supreme Court," one of McGuire's pleadings said.

Toal declined comment Wednesday, and a message left at Jefferson's office was not returned.

"The moment Mr. McGuire was forced to choose between ethically representing his client or 'taking a dive,' the die was cast for Mr. Broughton.

"From that moment on Mr. Broughton was going to be represented by a lawyer who had either angered the entire S.C. Supreme Court by being ethical or who would 'sell him out' and provide less than zealous representation," McGuire's pleading said.

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson filed a response saying that McGuire's motion asking Jefferson to step down has "several mischaracterizations."

McGuire's pleading said Jefferson previously allowed three lawyers to represent a defendant in a Lexington County case. He also filed a motion asking Jefferson to step down from the case, which she subsequently did.

Jefferson's e-mail said she was stepping down but "not for the reasons stated in the recusal motion." She cited no other reason.

Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson Jr. was assigned the case Aug. 31 and will hear further pretrial motions this morning. He has denied McGuire's request to be removed from the case and has declined to revisit Jefferson's previous rulings.