Friday, December 9, 2016

The Agenda: NPS head to visit Penn Center; State seeking dismissal of 'disturbing schools' suit

More women in state Senate

Posted by Sam Spence on Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 11:41 AM

The state's 'disturbing schools' statute is being challenged, in part, by the student who filmed a student being flipped out of their desk by a Richland school resource officer - YOUTUBE
  • YouTube
  • The state's 'disturbing schools' statute is being challenged, in part, by the student who filmed a student being flipped out of their desk by a Richland school resource officer

The state attorney general and law enforcement agencies are seeking to throw out a lawsuit brought by local students and the nonprofit Girls Rock that asserts the state's 'disturbing schools' statute is unconstitutional. The ACLU is supporting the litigation and the federal Department of Justice says they're watching its progress. Source: P&C

$1.3 million: The amount the state correctional agency will spend to help detect illegal cell phones inside state prisons. Source: P&C

NYT: "John Glenn, American Hero of the Space Age, Dies at 95"

P&C scoop yesterday: During the Michael Slager hearing, the jury foreman had a North Charleston breach of trust charge dropped by the local solicitor's office, which was also prosecuting Slager.

The South Carolina Senate swore in four women as members on Tuesday, the most the General Assembly's upper chamber has ever had. Charleston-area state Sen. Margie Bright-Matthews, who replaced slain Rev. Sen. Clementa Pinckney, is one of those members. Source: The State

Gov. Nikki Haley is not expected to see much opposition to her appointment to the United Nations, but she was in D.C. nonetheless yesterday in an effort to secure support. Source: P&C

The director of the National Park Service will visit the historic Penn Center on St. Helena Island next week as Congressman Jim Clyburn works to have the site declared a national monument before President Barack Obama leaves office. Source: P&C

Construction business is buoying coastal economies these days, economists say. Source: P&C


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Thursday, December 8, 2016

Jurors view gruesome evidence of shooting at Emanuel AME

Government presents crime scene photos

Posted by Dustin Waters on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 4:41 PM

Security camera footage showing Dylann Roof entering Mother Emanuel were among the images viewed in court Thursday - FILE
  • File
  • Security camera footage showing Dylann Roof entering Mother Emanuel were among the images viewed in court Thursday
Rev. Clementa Pinckney waited outside of Emanuel AME Church on the evening of June 17, 2015. As parishioners filed out of the church’s side door, several stopped for brief conversations, not knowing that these would be the last words they’d ever speak to their pastor.

In the second day of the federal trial of Dylann Roof, the 22-year-old charged with killing Pinckney and eight others at Mother Emanuel, prosecutors presented video evidence taken from the surveillance cameras positioned outside of the church. Sgt. Daniel English with the Charleston Police Department was tasked with collecting the footage on the night of the shooting. Coupled with descriptions from survivors of the shooting, images gathered by English would prove key in apprehending Roof, who sat in court Thursday still unwilling to raise his eyes to the evidence before him.

Compiling the video, English was able to show moments from the final hours of several of Roof’s victims. Just after 1 p.m. that day, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton can be seen lingering outside the church doors as she spoke on her cellphone. Susie Jackson, the oldest victim, arrived 20 minutes later, slowly making her way into the church. At 6 p.m., Myra Thompson stepped outside of Mother Emanuel and was immediately met by a man and woman. She greeted them with a smile and a warm embrace. Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. entered the church just before 6 p.m. Almost four hours later, Simmons would be carried through the very same doors with four bullets in his body, his clothes stained with blood.

Video evidence would also show the arrival of Dylann Roof as he parked his car outside the church at 8:16 p.m. Exiting the vehicle, he is seen adjusting his waistband before pulling open the door and stepping inside. Fifty minutes later, the door is seen slowly opening toward the camera. Roof cautiously peeks his head out, looking left and right before walking to his car with pistol in hand. The remainder of the day’s court proceedings would focus on the grisly scene he left behind.

SLED agent Britany Burke, the lead crime scene investigator for the Emanuel AME shooting, took the stand to present the graphic images collected at the scene. It would take investigators almost nine hours to process the scene as they collected more than 110 pieces of evidence. Multiple sets of 360-degree images of the crime scene were shown in the courtroom as a stoic jury looked on. Just past the side entrance of the church, a pool of blood could be seen surrounded by deep red shoe prints leading outside. Small yellow evidence markers were littered across the floor of the fellowship hall, identifying the 74 bullet casings recovered, each representing a shot fired.

Lying near the edge of the room was the body of Rev. Pinckney, who just hours before had held a small girls' hand as she bounded up the steps of the church. Just past a table bearing an open Bible and a discarded handgun magazine containing four rounds were the bodies of the remaining victims. Through the row of tablecloths spotted with bullet holes, the jury could see the bodies of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, and Susie Jackson surrounded by a pool of blood. Sanders, his shirt stained a deep crimson, lay dead with his hand outstretched to Jackson. Burke later revealed that the shooter had emptied almost an entire magazine into Jackson’s body. Just feet away from the 87-year-old, the other victims could be seen crumpled on the floor. In total, 54 bullets were removed from the bodies of the nine victims.
ROBERT MANISCALCO
  • Robert Maniscalco

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The Agenda: Slager foreman says jury deadlocked on manslaughter; Graham says he wants Putin to "pay a price" for election interference

Haley not expected to face opposition in confirmation

Posted by Sam Spence on Thu, Dec 8, 2016 at 12:06 PM

The 'Today' show caught flak yesterday for using a file image from Baltimore protests over the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. The show issued an on-air apology this morning and spoke in-studio with the Michael Slager jury foreman about the deliberations, which he said had ruled out a murder conviction and weighed instead the manslaughter charge. Source: P&C, TODAY

During the first day of testimony yesterday, Dylann Roof's mother reportedly suffered a heart attack and collapsed in the courtroom. Source: The State

Gov. Nikki Haley is in Washington today talking to lawmakers who will vote on her confirmation to be U.N. ambassador, but she will likely face little opposition. Source: The State/McClatchy

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and Congressional Democrats are both pushing efforts to probe the involvement of the Russian government in this year's election. Graham says he does believe Russia interfered in the election, and says "I want Putin personally to pay a price." Source: CNN

Wall Street Journal: "How Donald Trump’s Web of LLCs Obscures His Business Interests"


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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Anti-LGBT creationist Kevin Bryant could soon be first in line to become governor

Bryant led efforts to make cuts after 'Fun Home' and add Bible creation story into state law

Posted by Sam Spence on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 6:00 PM

A state senator who led the effort to cut funding from College of Charleston over summer reading assignments and pushed to include quotes from the Book of Genesis in legislation establishing a state fossil, could become South Carolina's lieutenant governor.

SCOTT MILLER / CLEMSON UNIVERSITY
  • Scott Miller / Clemson University
Republican state Sen. Kevin Bryant, a pharmacist by trade, told the Anderson Independent-Mail this week that he "would be honored" to serve as the state's lieutenant governor when Gov. Nikki Haley leaves S.C. next year to join the Donald Trump administration and Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster assumes the office of governor. Bryant has built a reputation as a conservative firebrand while representing the Anderson district since 2005, particularly on LGBT issues.

When College of Charleston and USC Upstate assigned books examining LGBT themes in 2013, Bryant was one of two senators who worked to cut funding to the programs, punishing the schools for what he called "perversion." The outcry sparked protests and eventually spurred the Tony-winning stage adaptation of 'Fun Home' to visit Charleston for a live performance. In the end, Bryant and his Senate colleague Mike Fair were successful in convincing their colleagues to require that CofC spend $53,000 to teach America's founding documents instead.

College of Charleston assigned freshmen to read the graphic memoir 'Fun Home' in 2013 - FILE
  • File
  • College of Charleston assigned freshmen to read the graphic memoir 'Fun Home' in 2013
And when the Senate took up an eight-year old's suggestion of naming the wooly mammoth as the official state fossil in 2014, Bryant unsuccessfully attempted to insert direct quotes from the book of Genesis. Bryant toned down that language to merely paraphrase from the creation story, asserting that mammoths were "created on the Sixth Day with the other beasts of the field." Those efforts were ultimately ruled out of order or voted down.

Lieutenant governor serves a mostly ceremonial role presiding over the state Senate. But whoever takes the post would be the next-in-line if the governor's office is once again vacated. They would serve until 2018, when the lieutenant governor will instead be elected along with the governor.

In the position, Bryant would no longer be able to push his agenda in the Senate, but that's not much consolation for Alliance for Full Acceptance leader Warren Redman-Gress.

"The lieutenant governor position gives him a kind of cultural pulpit in which he can travel around the state promoting his creationist views and regressive/biblical approach to the rights of women and LGBT persons."

Gress points to Bryant's recent promotion of an event that planned "biblical responses" to "cultural conflicts" including LGBT issues and abortion.

"I don’t think he wanted to confuse anyone with social science or the civil law under which we live."

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Shooting survivor, first responder take stand in Dylann Roof trial

Jury views footage of crime scene

Posted by Dustin Waters on Wed, Dec 7, 2016 at 4:57 PM

Courtroom sketch artist's depiction of the emotional first day in court for Dylann Roof - ROBERT MANISCALCO
  • Robert Maniscalco
  • Courtroom sketch artist's depiction of the emotional first day in court for Dylann Roof
Felicia Sanders, one of the survivors of the shooting at Emanuel AME Church that left nine dead and a community devastated, was called as the first witness for the prosecution in the federal trial of Dylann Roof. Recounting the night that she watched her son, aunt, and fellow parishioners gunned down, Sanders pointed out Roof as the man who entered Bible study that night and opened fire.

“We shut our eyes, started praying, a loud sound went off,” said Sanders, describing the moment following Bible study when Roof opened fire. Before that moment, Sanders said Roof had sat quietly with his head down throughout the group’s discussion. According to Sanders, she thought Roof was somebody coming in to “seek the word.”

SAM SPENCE
  • Sam Spence
Rev. Clementa Pinckney was the first to be shot, Sanders said. The others in the room spread as the gunman fired round after round. Sanders hid under a table, clutching her young granddaughter, telling the girl to play dead.

“I muzzled her face to my body so tight I thought I’d suffocate her,” Sanders said, before describing the feeling of warm blood that pooled around the two. Sanders’ youngest son, Tywanza Sanders had already been struck with a bullet. Asked about her son’s love of writing, Sanders said Tywanza “left enough poetry for me to read the rest of my life.” On the night that he died, Tywanza approached his shooter, asking the man, “Why are you doing this?”

Felicia Sanders pointed at Roof from the witness stand, denouncing his unwillingness to look at her as she described the killing of her son. According to Sanders, Roof told Tywanza “I have to do this,” before shooting him in the chest five times. When questioned by lead defense attorney David Bruck regarding what Roof said he planned to do after the shooting, Sanders replied, “He said he was going to kill himself. And I was counting on that ... He is evil. There is no place on earth for him except the pit of hell.”

For the rest of Monday’s court proceedings, the prosecution called a series of police officers and first responders to describe what they found when they arrived at the scene of the shooting. Officer David Stewart with the Charleston Police Department was the first member of law enforcement to enter the church. Working to clear the building of any possible threat, Stewart recalled seeing shapes along the floor of the church. These would turn out to be the bodies of the victims.

Sgt. Justin Kniess also testified about the night of the shooting. Like many of the other officers who took the stand Monday, he had never been to Emanuel AME until he received the call that shots had been fired. Kniess recalled entering the church and seeing multiple victims on the ground, shell casings, and a small child in shock. At that time, Kniess was one of the officers with the Charleston police equipped with a body-worn camera that captured images from the chaotic scene inside the church. The video from Kniess’ camera was played in court, beginning with the officer’s view as he peered around the corner of Mother Emanuel on a dark June night. Carefully making his way through the church’s side doors, Kniess enters the building as a small child — the granddaughter of Felicia Sanders — was led past by another officer. Between two rows of tables drapped with white tablecloth, a man’s body could be seen lying lifeless on the far end of the room.

Joined by his fellow officers, Kniess raced room to room, carefully clearing the building. Police guarded the entrances of the church out of concern that the shooter may attempt to return. In the video from Kniess’ camera, Sanders can be heard describing the shooter to an officer. “A small, pale, white boy,” she said. Kniess instructed his fellow officers to take the surviving witnesses to a safe location across the street. He then called out to ask if anyone had an accurate body count. Walking across the church basement, Kniess counted aloud, the number rising with each step. As he had done throughout the day, Roof refused to look up as the video played, refused to look up at the scene he is accused of leaving behind.

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