William Dickerson

William Dickerson Jr. speaks to the jury during closing arguments of his 2009 murder trial. He was sentenced to death. File/Staff

A man sentenced to death for the brutal killing of a James Island man in 2006 has been denied a new trial after a judge found he failed to back up his claim that Charleston's top prosecutor purposefully removed potential jurors because they were black.

Circuit Judge Thomas Cooper Jr. this week issued an order denying post-conviction relief for 41-year-old William Dickerson, a black man who in 2009 was convicted in the kidnapping, sexual assault and murder of a James Island man.

The thrust of Dickerson's bid for a new trial centered around a study commissioned by his attorneys that analyzed the juror selection process in his case and eight other trials handled by 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson.

The study alleged she was seven times more likely to excuse a black person from a jury than a white person.

The allegations made against Wilson and her character were "unsupported," Cooper wrote in the order. 

The judge concluded that variables were "sorely missing" from the study conducted by professors with the Michigan State University School of Law. He referred to testimony from a retired College of Charleston statistics professor who criticized the analysis as being incomplete.

Cooper also said the study failed to address "even the mere existence of additional reasons for striking jurors" and the reasons why potential jurors were removed in Dickerson's case. 

"There has been no explanation as to why this bare study should be accepted," Cooper wrote.

Using a peremptory strike, attorneys can excuse a certain number of potential jurors without providing a reason. Opposing lawyers can challenge the strike if they suspect it is racially motivated. 

Dickerson's defense attorney challenged three of Wilson's strikes during jury selection. Wilson said she removed the potential jurors because one needed to work, another had a criminal history and the third gave inconsistent answers about the death penalty. 

Three black and nine white jurors made it onto the final panel that heard Dickerson's case and voted to sentence him to death. 

In 2016, Wilson testified to defend her record against Dickerson's lead attorney, Charles Grose of Greenwood. She called racially motivated jury selections "immoral" and said her decisions were not based on race. She contended the study scrutinized only a small number of her cases that reached a jury. 

Among other arguments, Grose said Dickerson's trial attorney should have presented testimony that he suffered lead poisoning as a child. In the order issued this week, Cooper found there wasn't enough evidence to support the claim.

Dickerson's request for post-conviction relief began in 2012 as one of Grose's final attempts to spare his life. Grose previously accused a judge and Wilson of bias, claiming they and others had conspired against Dickerson. The judge called Grose's accusations "slanderous" and chose to recuse himself from the case. 

Grose could not be immediately reached Friday. Wilson declined to comment.

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Reach Angie Jackson at 843-937-5705. Follow her on Twitter at @angiejackson23

Angie Jackson covers crime and breaking news for The Post and Courier. She previously covered the same beat for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive.com in Michigan. When she’s not reporting, Angie enjoys teaching yoga and exploring the outdoors.

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