When defendant, a convicted murderer, agreed to cooperate with the state in exchange for a sentence reduction, rather than complying with S.C. Code Ann. § 17-25-65, a solicitor and judge acted in secret and had defendant released from prison after he had served only 19 years of his 35-year sentence. This sentence reduction was both outside the circuit court’s authority and contrary to law.
We vacate the order and remand defendant to the custody of the Department of Corrections where he must serve the remainder of his sentence.
S.C. Const. art. V, § 5 and S.C. Code Ann. § 14-3-310 give this court the power to issue writs of certiorari. Thus, we may use a common-law writ of certiorari to correct errors of law, particularly where a trial court has exceeded its authority.
Section 17-25-65 sets out the process for the state to request a sentence reduction. That process begins with the filing of a written motion, something that was not done here.
Section 17-25-65 also requires a hearing before a circuit court judge. When a statute requires a hearing, the hearing is presumptively open to the public. Moreover, the circuit court’s hearing must be recorded.
The “hearing” in this case took place in the judge’s chambers with only defense counsel and the solicitor present; it was not recorded. Not only was the hearing closed to the public, but the resulting order was also sealed. Neither closure was authorized.
The order reducing defendant’s sentence was not authorized by law. The order is vacated, and defendant is remanded to the Department of Corrections to serve the remainder of his sentence.
(James, J.) It was the state that sought and obtained the very sentence reduction it now asks this court to vacate. We should not permit the state to resort to the judicial branch for relief from the state’s own poor choices, as embarrassing as they may be for the state.
This court should not relieve the state from an order the state procured.
State v. Price (Lawyers Weekly No. 010-052-23, 36 pp.) (John Few, J.) (George James, J., joined by Donald Beatty, C.J., dissenting) Appealed from Richland County Circuit Court (Casey Manning, J.) Alan McCrory Wilson, Jeffrey Young, Robert Cook, Donald Zelenka and Heather Savitz Weiss for petitioner; James Todd Rutherford for defendant. South Carolina Supreme Court