Prosecuting Combs Is Pascoe Charade
By Ron Hosko, LELDF President
The second mistrial in the case of former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs should bring an end to the politically motivated prosecution by 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe.
The May 2011 fatal encounter between Combs and Bernard Bailey, following the former chief’s attempt to arrest Bailey outside of the Eutawville town hall, resulted in investigations by SLED and the FBI. More than two years later, a Pascoe grand jury indicted Combs for misconduct in office. After careful review of the facts, the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund has stood firmly behind Combs through this process.
Pascoe did nothing to advance the case until the country erupted with anti-police rhetoric and violence following events in Missouri and New York last fall. Last December, capitalizing on anti-police sentiment driven by a false narrative, Pascoe indicted Combs for murder. As seen by the timeline, facts didn’t propel prosecution, politics did.
The first trial began a month after indictment; it was marked by unbounded inflammatory comments by Pascoe but ended with a hung jury. Undeterred by the absence of essential facts, Pascoe pressed on to a second trial.
The second trial began and the memory of Pascoe’s star witness had improved. In a statement to SLED investigators on the day of the shooting, Christel White saw Combs reach into Bailey’s truck “maybe (because he) was trying to put the truck in park because the truck was moving.” She said nothing about Bailey’s hands being raised, presumably in surrender. In a later deposition, White had limited recall of the details and acknowledged a poor perspective of the event.
In the second trial, White, a former Bailey neighbor and relative by marriage, was suddenly able to remember details of the encounter more than four years ago that previously escaped her.
In harmony with the inflammatory “Hands up don’t shoot” myth of Ferguson, White suggested hands might have been raised before Combs’ fatal shots were fired. She was unable to say whose hands they were.
A prosecution witness promptly disputed White’s version of events. A second witness, one who was far better positioned to observe the event, was never called as a prosecution witness.
Pascoe had “stinging criticism” for the work of SLED agents following the shooting. That didn’t stop him from obtaining “expert” testimony from a SLED analyst who was unable to find Bailey’s blood on the unsecured, unprotected Bailey pickup truck four years later.
That analyst, and another paid prosecution expert who witnessed the analyst’s courtroom testimony, stated that two expended ammunition casings found adjacent to the pickup truck’s door proved that the pickup was stopped, and Combs had been standing at that very location, when the two rounds were fired.
Neither made an effort to conduct professional, independent, examinations of Bailey’s truck, which had been stored in an unguarded lot. The spurious, paid opinions, like White’s improved memory, were quickly discredited with a scientific test of shell-casing ejection patterns.
Pascoe’s case continues to evolve while he seeks the results he desires. He’s had four years to find expert witnesses who view evidence and form opinions based on science rather than using hired guns paid based on the opinions he wants.
He’s let a police chief, who used force only because he feared being run over, hold his breath for more than four years, three of them before the current charges were ever brought.
His case has evolved not because of the discovery of compelling new facts but because of a desire for victory, both legally and politically. It’s time to end this charade.