The retrial of a former South Carolina police chief charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed black man has been moved to Columbia from Orangeburg County, where the incident occurred.
Former Eutawville Police Chief Richard Combs was charged with murder after shooting Bernard Bailey, 54, three times in May 2011.
Jurors deliberated 12 hours in January before telling Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson they could not reach a verdict and he declared a mistrial.
Dickson signed an order Friday approving a change of venue for the retrial which had been set to begin next Monday in Orangeburg. The case will now be heard in Columbia.
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Combs’ attorneys asked for, but were denied, a change of venue when the original trial opened. Combs was fired by the town six months after the incident.
In defending Combs in the first trial, his lawyers told the jury that when he shot Bailey, Combs was caught in the open door of Bailey’s pickup truck as the truck moved backward.
Bailey had just put the truck in reverse, and, as the chief – who was trying to handcuff Bailey – was in danger of falling and being crushed, the truck turned into a deadly weapon, defense lawyers argued. Combs was trying to serve an arrest warrant on Bailey.
The seven black and five white jurors could have found Combs in January not guilty, guilty of murder or guilty of voluntary manslaughter. Murder carries a penalty of 30 years to life in prison without parole. Voluntary manslaughter carries two to 30 years in prison and would have meant Bailey’s killing was illegal but it happened because of passion.