- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Recent editorials from South Carolina newspapers:


Jan. 10

The Post and Courier of Charleston on Dylann Roof’s death sentence:

It took the jury slightly less than three hours to sentence Dylann Roof to death for murdering nine men and women at Emanuel AME Church 18 months ago. The jury - two men and 10 women - made the correct decision.

If ever there was a case in which the death penalty was fully deserved, this was one.

The trial of the 22-year old white supremacist showed him to be methodical in his preparation for the mass murder and carefully selective as to his target. He had visited the historic black church on Calhoun Street three times before the massacre.

He was merciless as he shot those in the Bible study group, who had invited him into their discussion, and with whom he spent almost an hour before killing them. He pulled the trigger more than 75 times, reloading seven times and shooting his victims repeatedly.

Roof showed no remorse in the courtroom, no repudiation of his ideology of race hatred, no shame for having committed a hideous crime of devastating consequences. Indeed, he appeared virtually without emotion throughout the trial, even when he acted as his own legal counsel during the sentencing portion.

There will be opponents of the death penalty who will argue that Roof should have been spared the death penalty on moral grounds, or that spending a life behind bars is a greater punishment than execution.

But the law makes execution the ultimate penalty, and the jury rightly decided it was the penalty Roof deserves. The judge is required to follow through on the jury’s unanimous decision.

One question remains: Should the state now pursue its murder case against Roof following the completion of the federal hate crimes trial?

Circuit Court Judge J.D. Nichols last week suspended the state trial indefinitely. State prosecutors should weigh their options regarding his pending murder trial, recognizing the burden that another trial would put upon the survivors of the massacre, and the families of those slain.

There will most likely be appeals of the sentence, or at least attempts to appeal.

Certainly, there is no question as to Roof’s guilt. He admitted it from the outset, though he initially sought a deal that would give him life imprisonment.

He returned briefly to that theme on Tuesday in his closing remarks, reminding jurors that it would take only one of them to spare his life.

But all the facts of the case and all the testimony in his trial inexorably led to the conclusion reached by the jury in its sentence.



Jan. 10

The State of Columbia on Clemson’s college football national championship:

This was the perfect week for Clemson University to win its second national championship in football.

While much of the world focused on the ongoing trial of convicted killer Dylann Roof in Charleston, the Tigers showed that the face of South Carolina isn’t an evil young man from Columbia. Rather, our state is a collection of people from all walks of life, most of whom are committed to doing things the right way and working together to achieve greatness.

A benefit of sports is to unite people who seemingly have little in common. On Monday night, in Tampa and in Clemson, and in every big and small town in South Carolina, Clemson fans - and even people who don’t normally pull for the Tigers - gathered to cheer on the team. Young and old, black and white, backers of Donald Trump and supporters of Hillary Clinton cheered together.

All that mattered was their devotion to orange. While it was just a game, and while a championship doesn’t eliminate life’s challenges, their unity was another indicator that we in South Carolina have more in common than some others think.

Of course, not all South Carolinians were united behind Clemson. Many USC fans bonded in their support of the University of ABC - Anybody But Clemson. But Clemson and USC fans also have more in common than even they think. Most important are the values they share that help make South Carolinians great.

Clemson’s team displayed all the ingredients of greatness. Not surprisingly, the team’s recognized stars showed why they one day will play in the National Football League. Mike Williams and Jordan Leggett made spectacular catches. Quarterback Deshaun Watson started slow, rebounded, and kept his cool after Alabama retook the lead with just more than two minutes left in the game.

But the star on this night was a 5-foot-11, 180-pound former walk-on who most likely won’t be a first-round NFL draft pick. For the second year in a row, Hunter Renfrow was a claw in the side of Alabama’s best-in-the-nation defense.

Called a “sniper” by one teammate, Mr. Renfrow caught 10 passes for 92 yards. His final catch will be remembered by Clemson fans for generations, snagged in the end zone with just one second left to give Clemson the title.

Mr. Renfrow was not offered a single scholarship from a major college football team after he graduated from Socastee High School. So he tried out for Clemson, a process known as walking on. He’s now a legend.

Even the Gamecock-Tiger divide can’t diminish his accomplishments. Former USC football player Patrick Fish tweeted this after the game: “I’ll never be a Clemson fan, but I am a huge Hunter Renfrow fan! Gotta respect that guy! Congrats to the Tigers.”

USC women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley also congratulated the Tigers on Twitter, and singled out Mr. Watson: “Incredible game. Incredible win. Incredible performance by @DeshaunWatson4!”

She acknowledged the views of many Gamecock fans, but added, “it’s credit deserved.”

Indeed it is.

This week, there was a lot about the face of South Carolina that was hard to look at. But there was also a lot that was inspirational.

This week, the face of South Carolina included a highly talented, much celebrated quarterback who is roundly respected for his greatness as a player, as a leader, and as a role model. (Yes, he’s originally from Georgia, but we say he’s a South Carolinian now).

The face included Clemson coach Dabo Swinney, who steadily built a national champion by recruiting great players and teaching them to play college football better than anyone else.

The face included a relatively small receiver from Myrtle Beach who through persistence and hard work pursued his dream of playing major college football. Now, his story and his catch will be a key part of Clemson and college football lore.

So congratulations - and thanks - to Clemson. Congratulations for winning its second national championship. Thanks for showing the nation the real South Carolina.




Jan. 8

The Aiken Standard on Rep. Chris Corley:

The chorus of state lawmakers calling for Rep. Chris Corley to resign continues to grow.

Among them are Sen. Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, Rep. Bill Taylor, R-Aiken, Rep. Gary Simrill, R-Rock Hill and Rep. Mandy Powers Norell, D-Lancaster. All voiced their desire for Corley to resign during a legislative briefing with the media Tuesday, joining the editorial position of the Aiken Standard, which called for Corley to resign last Monday.

Corley, 36, of Graniteville, was recently indicted following felony domestic violence and weapons charges. He was suspended from office Wednesday.

We were a little surprised to see Rep. Tommy Pope waffle on the issue.

Pope, a former prosecutor who’s running for governor in 2018, correctly noted everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but stopped short of calling for Corley’s resignation or ouster.

“I think in fairness to the system, it’s not our place for us to call on him to resign,” Pope said.

But as other lawmakers noted, there’s a difference between the criminal and political perspectives.

Rep. Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta, noted that even if Corley stepped down today, due to requirements in state law, Corley’s seat would not be filled until the 18th Tuesday after Corley leaves office.

That means District 84 wouldn’t have its own representative until at least May or June, essentially the end of the current legislative session.

With respect to Pope, an otherwise affable and respected lawmaker, this is not the time for leniency. District 84 needs to move forward with new leadership, and backpeddling sends the wrong political message given recent domestic violence reforms.

It’s also worth noting that during Thursday’s legislative briefing, several lawmakers said their opinions about Corley were swayed after listening to 911 tapes obtained by the Aiken Standard.

Sen. Massey and Rep. Powers Norell specifically referenced the recordings as influencing their decision to call for Corley’s resignation.

“The 911 tapes changed my thoughts on this to some degree,” Massey said. “What happened yesterday (with the indictment) changed my thoughts on this today.”

“I don’t know why he hasn’t resigned yet,” Powers Norell said. “What I heard on that 911 call was terrifying and horrific.”

These reactions exemplify why the Aiken Standard and other media organizations believe so strongly in the release of recordings, such as 911 tapes, dash cam video and police body cam footage.

On a basic level, disclosure of these records ensures accountability and provides context. But as South Carolina lawmakers noted, it has a deeper impact on how they perform their legislative duties.

Disclosure of audio and video footage is crucial to understanding what really happens during a police response, which is why we were gratified to hear Massey’s and Powers Norrell’s comments. It’s also why we will continue to press for the release of these recordings.



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