High Court Rules in Laurens Case

 

Drug conviction is overturned by high court in Laurens case

 

The state Supreme Court has overturned a Laurens man’s conviction on a charge of trafficking crack cocaine. Timothy Artez Pulley was found guilty in October, 2015 on a charge of trafficking crack cocaine third and subsequent offense and was sentenced to 25 years. 

In March, the court heard an appeal, according to the opinion published on the Supreme Court’s website (#27811). 

The appeal’s contention was the state did not provide a complete chain of custody for the drugs. A court document says Pulley was arrested on June 22, 2013, following a traffic stop for speeding. In a search, Laurens officers found three clear bags containing 16.5 grams of cocaine. The SC Supreme Court opinion says Officer Patrick Craven said it was put into evidence at the police department. Officer David Brewer said he didn’t take cocaine from the scene and remembered Craven taking the drugs, the document says, but could not remember how the drugs got from the scene of arrest (McDonalds in Laurens) to the patrol office. A form indicated Craven put cocaine into evidence; but the defense said there was no chain of evidence from the time the drugs were sitting on Brewer’s car to Craven taking custody.

The trial court said the “chain of custody” was sufficient. The South Carolina Supreme Court disagreed. Clarence R. Wise, of Greenwood, is listed as Pulley's attorney.

During Pulley’s trial, Brewer was called back to the stand. He testified to leaving the scene of arrest with the drugs and then giving the evidence to Craven. Earlier testimony was that he did not take drugs from the scene, and dashcam video showed Craven left the scene while the drugs were still on Brewer’s vehicle.

Justice George James Jr. said the trial court, and presiding Judge Donald Hocker, should have asked for further explanation.

James wrote, “The trial court never undertook to exercise its discretion by inquiring into Officer Brewer's subsequent contradictory account. This was error.

“When Officer Brewer testified for the second time, he was never asked to explain his reversal in testimony, and he never explained how the video might have refreshed his recollection. 

“Though he stated he had ‘an opportunity to review the video,’ there is nothing in the video that would explain his reversal in testimony. Also, when Officer Brewer initially testified, he stated he had already seen the video showing the drugs on the hood of his vehicle when Officer Craven drove away. 

“I agree with the majority that (1) Officer Brewer's initial denial of transporting the drugs, (2) the State's concession of a missing link in the chain of custody, (3) Officer Brewer's subsequent testimony contradicting his initial testimony, and (4) the State's failure to elicit testimony from Officer Craven as to how he obtained possession of the drugs after he left the scene, all force us to impermissibly speculate as to the sufficiency of the chain of custody. Since the chain of custody of the drugs was not sufficiently established, the drugs should not have been entered into evidence. 

“Therefore, we have no choice but to reverse Pulley's conviction.”

A October, 2015 statement by the Eighth Circuit Solicitor’s Office announced the conviction of Timothy Artez Pulley, of Laurens, on a trafficking crack cocaine charge. Pulley was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the statement said.

“Timothy Pulley has been in and out of the criminal justice system for years on drug charges, and it was time for this revolving door to stop,” Solicitor David Stumbo said following the Laurens County General Sessions Court trial. “Fortunately, one of the most prolific dealers of crack cocaine in this area will not be spreading the misery of drug addiction on our streets for the foreseeable future.”

The Solicitor’s Office statement said Pulley was convicted on an indictment of trafficking crack cocaine, third or subsequent offense. Hocker sentenced Pulley to the mandatory sentence under South Carolina law after the verdict was returned. Pulley had at least seven prior narcotics convictions and an armed robbery conviction on his criminal record dating back to the early 1990s, the statement said.

The statement said Laurens city police officers pulled Pulley over for driving 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. After officers activated the blue light, Pulley pulled into the McDonald’s on the bypass in Laurens and went all the way around the building in an apparent attempt to flee. Pulley struck the curb and then exited his vehicle, the statement said. After a short foot chase, officers apprehended Pulley and frisked him, and they found marijuana and a large sum of cash on his person, the statement said.

Officers searched the car that Pulley was driving and had abandoned; and in the vehicle, the officers located 16.5 grams of crack cocaine. 

In the 2015 statement, Stumbo praised the work of Assistant Solicitor Margaret Boykin, who was the lead prosecutor on the case, and Deputy Solicitor Dale Scott who assisted in presenting the case to the jury. Stumbo also noted police work by officers of the Laurens Police Department, particularly Lt. David Brewer and Patrolman Patrick Craven who made the arrest and testified at trial.

With the Supreme Court’s June 6 reversal, the Solicitor’s Office can bring up the case again for re-trial, or it can dismiss (nol pros) the charges against Pulley.

 

https://www.sccourts.org/opinions/HTMLFiles/SC/27811.pdf

 

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