Thursday, July 14, 2016

Judge denies request to advance state trial for Dylann Roof

Jury selection likely delayed to January

Posted by Dustin Waters on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 4:46 PM

  • Dustin Waters
A request from state prosecutors to advance the start date for the trial of accused Emanuel AME Church shooter Dylann Roof was rejected earlier this week. After attorneys for both sides voiced their concerns over the trial schedule, Circuit Judge J.C. Nicholson said he will likely delay the start of jury selection by more than a month. Jury selection for the capital case was previously set to begin Dec. 6 — with opening arguments starting on Jan. 17.

In late June, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson requested that Roof’s state trial take place before his federal trial — scheduled for Nov. 7 — arguing that the government is less likely to impose the death penalty and a federal trial would be unnecessary if the defendant is sentenced to death by a state jury. The defense strongly opposed Wilson’s motion to advance the start date of the trial, calling the move “reckless” and “shortsighted.”

Judge Nicholson told the solicitor that he was not going to take up the fight over who goes to trial first, adding, “That’s up to the federal court. If you have a problem with that, go across the street and file a motion.”

Roof’s state trial was originally set to begin in July. That was until Nicholson granted the defense a six-month delay to allow for a complete psychiatric evaluation of their client. Wilson is also serving as the lead prosecutor in the state trial of former North Charleston police officer Michael Slager, who will face trial for the shooting of Walter Scott beginning Oct. 31. Faced with two back-to-back trials, the solicitor told Judge Nicholson that the prosecution would not be prepared for jury selection in Roof’s state trial, which was scheduled to begin in early December. Roof’s attorneys also favored postponing jury selection until January, citing concerns that their client will be unavailable to them during his federal trial.

With more breathing room between trials, Solicitor Wilson remains concerned about the issues of primary custody between the state and the government in Roof’s case and the effect that two trials will have on the families of the victims.

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Giant oak falls inside College of Charleston Cistern Yard

Nobody hurt, George Street closed

Posted by Sam Spence on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 2:30 PM

  • Courtesy of Seaton Brown
There's a little less shade at CofC's Cistern Yard this afternoon after one of the statuesque oaks fell from its position lining the school's grassy quad on George Street.

Initial reports of the tree falling floated across social media around 1:30 this afternoon along with word that nobody was hurt. The tree sat in the southwest corner of the yard, falling across the iron fence that flanks the street, clipping another tree on its way down. That part of Cistern Yard is a little more secluded during the day and isn't normally busy, but the George Street sidewalk and Physicians Promenade just feet away is one of the busiest parts of campus during the semester. A view from Google Street View shows the tree as it stood in 2013.

After stopping by the scene, local landscape architect J.R. Kramer who runs Remark Studio, says it looks like the roots on the tree had begun to decay and that recent storms were enough to topple the giant water oak. Unlike live oaks, water oaks don't have as long of a lifespan and stand more upright than the sprawling oaks seen throughout the rest of the area.

CofC President Glenn McConnell confirmed on Twitter that nobody was hurt, but George at Glebe Street remains closed for the time being.
  • Seaton Brown
  • Seaton Brown

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Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence

Organizer: ‘Race is a factor’

Posted by Dustin Waters on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 1:06 PM

Marchers circled Marion Square Wednesday evening to protest police violence - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Marchers circled Marion Square Wednesday evening to protest police violence
A crowd of hundreds gathered at Marion Square Wednesday evening to speak out against racially motivated police violence following the recent shootings of two black men in Minnesota and Louisiana. One of the event’s organizers, Paris Simmons, made it clear that the demonstration was not intended to be a riot or a rally. Instead, the rising junior on break from Spelman College said the peaceful protest was an effort to raise awareness of the value of black lives in the community.

Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence
Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence

Marchers gather at Marion Square to speak out against police violence

By Dustin Waters

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“We just want everyone to know that we do value our black men. We value our lives. We want to fight for what is right. We believe that you can’t be quiet during situations like these because if you’re quiet during situations of injustice, that means you’re neutral to the situation. If you’re neutral to the situation, then you’re just as bad as the oppressor,” said Simmons. “There are a lot of people who do not think race is an issue with all of these recent killings that have been happening. There are a lot of people who don’t see an issue when there is clearly a reoccurring problem. Race is an issue. Race is a factor. We want people to see that.”

As those attending the demonstration gathered around the sound of a beating drum, Black Lives Matter Charleston organizer Muhiyidin d’Baha announced that Wednesday’s event was not a performance. Standing at the center of the crowd, he led a passionate plea for a more representative police force, more citizen oversight for law enforcement agencies, and real-world change. Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg looked on as b’Baha and others shared their feelings of frustration following another week of highly publicized shootings. The mayor briefly joined marchers as they wrapped their way around Marion Square. As a heavy police presence looked on, those leading the demonstration asked everyone to remain respectful and stay on the sidewalk as they marched. As they rounded the park, demonstrators paused at the statue of American statesman and slave owner John C. Calhoun that overlooks the square and momentarily huddled at the entrance of the Embassy Suites.

  • Dustin Waters
As they continued to march, a few demonstrators splintered off into the streets. While a vast majority of the crowd regrouped to continue the conversation on systemic injustice, a handful of young men stretched banners reading “Black Lives Matter” and “No Racist Police” across the intersection of King and Calhoun streets, disrupting traffic for a moment. Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen initially gestured to his fellow officers to stand back while he spoke to the small group of demonstrators. The men then began to move closer to the sidewalk, while shouting "No justice. No peace." As the police continued to clear the street, d'Baha approached, telling the officers that the men had the right to chant on the corner. With everyone out of the roadway, the scene settled. But it wouldn't be the last moment of tension that night.

According to a statement released by the Charleston Police Department, no arrests were made during the demonstration, but one officer was hit in the chest with "a piece of brick-like material" after the demonstration when a "sub-group" of protesters left Marion Square and began marching downtown. Police intervened near the intersection of Broad and King streets after the group began blocking traffic. Advised not to let protesters continue north on King Street, the officers formed a line to block the way. Authorities say it was at this point that an object was thrown from the crowd, striking an officer. The officer was not seriously injured, but he was taken to the hospital for a medical evaluation. 

Before leaving Marion Square, demonstrators sat in a circle at the center of the park to listen on as speakers took turns sharing their stories. A helicopter circled overhead as d’Baha and others continued to describe the objectives for change outlined by Black Lives Matter Charleston, such as establishing a citizens review board to improve police accountability, supporting black-owned businesses, and improving public influence on police recruitment and policy.
Black Lives Matter Charleston organizer Muhiyidin d'Baha - DUSTIN WATERS
  • Dustin Waters
  • Black Lives Matter Charleston organizer Muhiyidin d'Baha
“Can we have unity without justice? Can all lives matter until black lives matter? If we can’t have unity until we have justice, what do we have to do? Fight for justice. The thing that we really want to understand and that the mass media does is put unity before justice,” said d’Baha. “It puts all lives matter before black lives matter. What that sets up in everybody’s mind is that if you’re fighting for justice, you must be doing something wrong. If you’re protesting, you must be doing something wrong. But you’re not doing anything wrong. Understand that until we can look at one another and know that we live under a flag that stands for justice and liberty for all and we’re actually living that — until we’re doing that, there can be no justice and no unity.”

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The Agenda: Tim Scott recounts police profiling; Thousands of abusers allowed to buy guns in S.C.

Scott says he's been stopped seven times in a year

Posted by Sam Spence on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 at 11:16 AM

The Dewberry, a luxury hotel in the old federal building on Marion Square, will open additional rooms later this month after receiving a temporary certificate of occupancy. Source: P&C

Hearing another request from prosecutors to reschedule accused Emanuel gunman Dylann Roof's state trial, Judge J.C. Nicholson said yesterday that "the horse was out of the barn" and that it was too late to shuffle the schedule now. Instead, the judge bumped the state trial later, so that jury selection won't start until January, after the holidays. Source: P&C

In other state prosecutor squabbles: The State Supreme Court ruled in favor of Solicitor David Pascoe in his dispute with Attorney General Alan Wilson over who has power over a state ethics inquiry into members of the state legislature. Source: P&C

In an emotional speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate yesterday, Tim Scott recounted "sadness and humiliation" over being targeted by police. Scott is one of two black members of the U.S. Senate (U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey is the other.) Source: P&C

Scott's colleague, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham says he still has no plans to attend the Republican Convention in Cleveland next week where Donald Trump will officially be nominated to represent the party on the November presidential ticket. Source: AP

An incumbent GOP senator's primary defeat in Greenville could be good news for the state's beer industry, eliminating state Sen. Mike Fair's reliable "No" vote on alcohol-related legislation. Source: G'ville News

A new report this week shows that thousands of convicted domestic abusers and those with orders of protection against them have been allowed to purchase guns because of the so-called "Charleston loophole." Nearly 100,000 people that fall into that camp have tried to buy guns since 2006, and almost 6,800 were allowed to purchase them because federal background checks weren't completed within three days. Source: P&C

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mt. Pleasant council votes against moratorium on residential development

Town Tipping Points

Posted by Dustin Waters on Wed, Jul 13, 2016 at 10:42 AM

  • Flickr user Isaac Wedin
  • Shem Creek
Mt. Pleasant Town Council voted down a 120-day moratorium on residential building permits Tuesday evening. The plan to rein in new development in what has become one of the fastest-growing communities in the nation was originally proposed by Councilman Joe Bustos, who argued that the town’s leaders are asking residents to sacrifice their quality of life in the face of such expansion.

“We’re so weighted over here with houses, ADUs (accessory dwelling units), apartments, and resulting traffic, and children in schools. We’re almost completely out of balance,” said Bustos. “And we need to do something to bring that balance back because what’s at risk is our quality of life.”

Many of the specifics of the proposed moratorium remained undecided at the start of Tuesday’s meeting. Questions regarding which projects already in the approval process would be put on hold and the loss of building permit revenue to the town were met with few concrete answers.

“Staff has no direction, and they didn’t come prepared, I don’t believe, to answer all of the questions that have arisen out of this,” said Mayor Linda Page, who recommended that the plan be put before the town’s Planning Committee to study the true impact that a moratorium would have on the town’s budget. “You’re asking us to vote on something we’re very willing to discuss, but that we don’t know what we’re voting on.”

Bob Brimmer, chair of the Planning Committee, called the moratorium the “nuclear option” in dealing with Mt. Pleasant’s sustained development. Brimmer acknowledged that something must be done to curb the rapid growth that is taxing the town’s infrastructure, but felt that a more focused effort was necessary.

“There’s a lot of question, a lot of information that we just don’t have, and perhaps a lot of unintended consequences for acting so quickly,” he said. “I’m concerned about the property owner who wants to build a home or two on their property. We’re kind of lumping them in with the big developers in town. We’re not using a scalpel here. We’re taking a broad approach across the town.”

The proposed moratorium would have been the second major step that Mt. Pleasant leaders have taken to slow growth in the past year. This spring, Town Council approved a 180-day pause on approvals for new apartment plans. Although this most recent attempt to halt new residential projects was unsuccessful, several town officials are still examining other options to address Mt. Pleasant’s increasing development.

“I think we’re in a hole, and I think we need to stop digging,” said Councilman Will Haynie. “Just to compare growth rates, you’ve got to look at where we are toward capacity.”

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