Crime

SC death penalty process a "sham" because of appeals, says York County prosecutor

Prosecutor: death penalty isn’t deterrent for crime because it’s ‘never carried out’

16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said the death penalty option in South Carolina is not a deterrent for crime because "it is never carried out." Brackett said the death penalty law "overpromises and severely underdelivers."
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16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said the death penalty option in South Carolina is not a deterrent for crime because "it is never carried out." Brackett said the death penalty law "overpromises and severely underdelivers."

The York County prosecutor who put a convicted cop killer in prison for life Tuesday said after court that South Carolina's death penalty is a "sham."

The death penalty is broken, he said, because appeals can drag on for decades and the state does not use the law as a violent crime deterrent as it was intended, said Kevin Brackett, 16th Circuit Solicitor.

Brackett made the comments to The Herald Tuesday after Christian McCall was sentenced to life in prison for killing York County Sheriff's Office Det. Mike Doty in January.

Brackett said he explained to Doty's family that he would take the case to a death penalty trial against McCall. But Brackett said he explained to the Doty family appeals last decades and families may never get closure in the case.

"The (death penalty) system does not work," Brackett said. "The death penalty is not a deterrent if it is never carried out."

The Doty family asked Brackett for a quick close to the case and a life sentence without parole for McCall rather than deal with decades of appeals, Brackett said. Brackett agreed because of the "over-promised and under-delivered" death penalty system in South Carolina, he said.

South Carolina has not executed a killer since 2011, records show. State law allows for a death penalty prosecution in a murder case if a police officer is the victim, or there are other specific aggravating circumstances.

Brackett said the death penalty is solely for people like McCall, whose guilt is "without question." However, the dual problem of the state having no death penalty lethal injection drugs available, and the likelihood of long appeals makes it impractical, Brackett said.

"Either do away with it or figure out a way to make it a real option," Brackett said.

York County has two convicted killers on death row. Mar-Reece Hughes was convicted in 1995 for the 1992 shooting death of York County deputy James Brent McCants and has been on death row ever since. James Robertson of Rock Hill, was convicted in 1999 of killing his parents in 1997.

Both Hughes and Robertson have filed multiple appeals over two decades in state and federal courts to avoid the death penalty, court records show.

"I sent those people to death row and nobody is even close to being executed," Brackett said.

Brackett, a Republican who took office in 2007 after 15 years as the second in command, prosecuted both Hughes and Robertson and won death penalty verdicts at trials.



Andrew Dys: 803-329-4065, @AndrewDysHerald; Hannah Smoot: 329-4068, @hgsmoot

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