A Charleston man implicated in a fatal 2012 shooting on Wadmalaw Island will not face a second trial on a murder charge after the U.S. Supreme Court declined this week to hear the case.
The nation's high court ruled 4-3 against granting a review of a ruling by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals that granted Broderick William Seay, 28, protections under double jeopardy rules, which state a person can't be tried twice on the same charge after being acquitted or convicted.
"These are rules that protect all of us, from people accused of jaywalking to people accused of murder," said Jason Luck, an attorney who represented Seay at the federal level. "It's the right you have to ... be tried by the jury that you picked."
Seay surrendered to Charleston County sheriff's deputies in March 2014 after a witness identified him as a suspect in the shooting death of Adrian L. Lyles Jr., 24, of West Ashley.
Lyles’ cousin, Kevin Lamar Howard, 34, was charged with burglary, kidnapping and murder. He would later be convicted on all three counts, court records show.
A third suspect in the killing, Tyrone Laval Drayton, 34, turned himself in to authorities in November 2016 and was charged with the same three counts Howard faced. Drayton's criminal case is pending.
Seay's trial was scheduled to to begin on July 25, 2016, but a key witness for the prosecution didn't show up, according to the Appeals Court opinion. The case moved forward, but prosecutors moved for a mistrial when the witness still hadn't shown up four days later.
After a state court denied Seay's request to dismiss the charges, his attorneys filed a petition in federal court asserting that a second trial would violate his rights under double jeopardy rules.
Eventually, the case made its way to the appeals court, which ruled in favor of Seay, according to the S.C. Attorney General's Office, which represented Charleston County Sheriff Al Cannon in the case at the federal level.
"This case sharply illustrates the consequences of the government's too ready reliance on the short-term solution of a mistrial to solve a common trial predicament," the Appeals Court ruling reads. "The clear loser in this scenario is the public, which had a strong interest in having Seay tried under the murder indictment. However, as a result of the government's ill-advised request for a mistrial, approved by the state trial court without consideration of existing alternatives, Seay is entitled to the habeas corpus relief that will afford him his constitutional rights under the double jeopardy clause."
Robert Kittle, a spokesman for the S.C. Attorney General's Office, said the case went to the Supreme Court, where state authorities hoped to get the justices to review the Appeals Court decision.
Because the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the lower court's decision stands and South Carolina prosecutors can't try Seay on the murder count, Kittle said.
"Our office agreed with the dissent in the Fourth Circuit and took appropriate steps to seek review," he said. "It is an unfortunate result because, as the Fourth Circuit opinion reflects, the 'clear loser in this scenario is the public.'"
Following the Supreme Court's decision, prosecutors dropped the murder charge against Seay on Tuesday, court records show.
Luck, Seay's attorney, said state prosecutors in the criminal case essentially tried to end the trial early so they could start over.
"I kind of describe this case as the other side spiked the football in order to get another play," he said. "From a trial perspective, you're going to think twice before asking for a mistrial if it's based on your own witness disappearing."