Judge denies motion to dismiss filed in decades-old murder case that claimed HCPD destroyed evidence

Grand Strand Crime

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CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – A judge has denied a motion to dismiss that was previously filed in a decades-old murder case, claiming Horry County police destroyed evidence.

The motion, filed by Gary Wayne Bennett on September 20, went before 15th Circuit Court Judge Robert E. Hood on December 13 and was denied.

The motion alleged that employees of the 15th Circuit Solictor’s Office and the Horry County Police Department “have engaged in a pattern of systematic misconduct related to this case that spans nearly 20 years.”

Bennett was convicted of murder and armed robbery on August 14, 2002.

Bennett appealed his conviction, “alleging that the trial judge erred when ruling that the jury was not permitted to hear impeaching evidence of Lindsay’s prior murder conviction at Defendant’s trial,” according to the motion. “Lindsay was convicted of murdering a woman in the State of Illinois in 1990. Defendant’s appeal of this impeachment issue was heard by the South Carolina Court of Appeals, who determined that the trial judge erred and the jury should have heard details of Lindsay’s prior murder conviction. However, the South Carolina Court of Appeals did not overturn Defendant’s conviction, holding that the trial judge’s error was harmless pursuant to South Carolina law.

Bennett filed for post-conviction relief “based on ineffective assistance of counsel,” says the motion. Post-conviction relief was grand on August 14, 2014.

On May 5, 2016, Bennett was appointed counsel for a retrial, the motion adds. “However, the State failed to prosecute Defendant’s case or produce complete discovery, and appointed counsel fail to investigate on behalf of Defendant, for nearly one year. As a result, the undersigned counsel took Defendant’s case pro bono in June 2017.”

“Since June 2017, through her independent investigation of this case, the undersigned counsel has discovered gross misconduct by the Horry County Police Department and malicious prosecution by the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office that the State concealed from Defendant while Defendant’s charges were pending, during his first trial, during his appeal, and during his PCR proceedings.”

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