The case of the former Eutawville police chief charged with murder in the shooting death of an unarmed African-American likely will go to the jury on Friday.
Closing arguments in the case are set to begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Richland County courthouse. The trial began Monday.
Late Thursday, after presenting some expert witnesses to show that former chief Richard Combs was justified in using deadly force against Bernard Bailey outside town hall in 2011, the defense rested its case.
A motion late Thursday by 1st Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe to bus the jury to Eutawville to view the scene of the shooting was denied by Judge Brian Gibbons. Eutawville, some 75 miles south of Columbia, is at least a three- or four-hour round trip from the Richland County courthouse where the trial is taking place.
In a trial in January, an Orangeburg County jury deadlocked. Prosecution and defense attorneys agreed to hold the retrial in Columbia.
On Thursday, Combs’ defense team put up both eyewitness and expert witnesses to counter the prosecution’s assertions that the shooting was needless and unjustified.
One defense expert witness, Sam Bowser, testified that Combs was attempting to serve a legal arrest warrant on Bailey during the May 2, 2011, incident when he shot and killed Bailey. Another expert, Billy Williams, presented video reconstructions of that confrontation, telling the jury that Combs might have been killed if he hadn’t shot and killed Bailey first.
The prosecution rested Wednesday evening after putting up 12 witnesses, including three experts in scientific crime analysis or proper police procedures. All experts testified Combs’ version of events was not credible. Two said bluntly the shooting need not have happened.
Combs’ retrial comes at a time of national attention over white police officers’ shootings and use of force against African-Americans. Some of those incidents have been captured on cellphone videos or police dash cameras. In Combs’ case, there was no video. Evidence is from people involved in several incidents and crime scene experts.