by Jo Ellen Nott
At an emergency hearing on April 26, 2023, the South Carolina Supreme Court found a legal rationale to countermand the release of a convicted killer 16 years before the end of his sentence.
A clandestine deal freed Jeroid Price in March 2023, reportedly in reward for confidential and substantial assistance he gave law enforcement about another prisoner’s escape. Price, 43, was convicted of fatally shooting college football player Carl Smalls, Jr., in a Columbia nightclub parking lot in 2002 and sentenced to 35 years to life. At the request of his attorney – now-state Rep. J. Todd Rutherford (D-Columbia) – 5th Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson agreed to the release deal, and now-retired Judge Casey Manning signed it in December 2022.
However, Manning retired the next day, without getting a Chief Judge’s sign-off, as required by state law. Also at issue was the state’s mandatory-minimum sentence for murder, which Price’s release violated.
To resolve the controversy that erupted, state Attorney General Alan Wilson (R) convinced a 3-2 majority of Supreme Court justices that Article 5 of the state constitution gives the Court broad authority to make “correction of errors at law.” On April 26, 2023, the Court issued an order voiding Price’s release. See: State v. Price, S.C., Case No. 2023-000614.
But that wasn’t the controversy’s end. Documents filed in the case revealed that Judge Manning may have been swayed by testimony from a former guard who credited Price with saving the life of her co-worker. However, Asia Love was in a relationship with Price at the time. She had left the state Department of Corrections (DOC) in 2011, though she applied a year later to visit Price at his prison, falsely claiming to be his sister. That request was denied when the lie was found out. Then in a 2019 affidavit to the sentencing court, Love said Price saved the life of another guard threatened with a broomstick by a prisoner whom Price tackled. It was her recounting of that 2010 incident which might have influenced Price’s early release.
Rutherford, Price’s former lawyer, warned that the information he helped nab an escapee also labeled him a snitch, so sending him back to prison would be a death sentence. As of May 2023, that remains speculative, since Price was still a fugitive. A $30,000 reward for help locating him was offered by the state Law Enforcement Division, DOC and Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.
Additional sources: Post & Courier, The State, WJCL, WOLO
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