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Former client of Appellate Clinic freed due to lack of evidence

The Supreme Court of South Carolina recently reversed the murder conviction of Roger Bostick, a former client of the Appellate Advocacy Clinic, due to insufficient evidence.  Bostick is now a free man, due in part to the efforts of the Clinic. 

Bostick was a client of the Appellate Advocacy Clinic in 2008 and 2009.  At that time, he had been convicted of murder in state court and had received a 30-year sentence. 

After his time to appeal in state court had passed, he petitioned the federal District Court of South Carolina for habeas corpus relief, because his state court attorney had never consulted with him about his right to appeal.  The District Court denied Bostick relief, and he appealed to the Fourth Circuit, which appointed the Clinic to represent him. 

In a brief written by Brian Conley (’09) and Matt Monteith (’09), the Clinic contended that Bostick’s right to effective counsel had been violated because his trial attorney did not consult with him about his right to appeal.  Daniel Vandergriff (’10) argued on behalf of Bostick to a panel of Fourth Circuit judges in October 2009.  In a published opinion, the Fourth Circuit ruled in Bostick’s favor and ordered that Bostick be released from prison unless the State of South Carolina granted him a direct appeal in a reasonable time.  Bostick v. Stevenson, 589 F.3d 160 (4th Cir. 2009).

Attorney Bob Dudek of the South Carolina Appellate Defender’s office took over Bostick’s representation in the Supreme Court of South Carolina.  After briefing and an oral argument held in March 2011, the court unanimously held that the trial court should have directed a verdict of acquittal because the State presented insufficient evidence to submit the murder charge to the jury.  South Carolina v. Bostick, 2011 WL 1363601 (S.C. May 26, 2011).  The State moved the Court to reconsider, and the Court recently denied the State’s motion.  Bostick was released from prison earlier this month.

Director of the Appellate Advocacy Clinic John Korzen said, “I’m proud of all the teamwork that led to Mr. Bostick’s release and the great job done by Wake Forest 3L’s.  Brian Conley and Matt Monteith wrote a fine brief, and then Daniel Vandergriff made an excellent oral argument.  After the Fourth Circuit held that Mr. Bostick was entitled to a state court appeal, we coordinated the transition of his representation to Mr. Dudek and stayed in touch with his office and Mr. Bostick.”

The State’s case against Bostick was entirely circumstantial and lacked both a motive and a murder weapon.  The victim was a neighbor of Bostick’s mother and usually came home from church on Sunday afternoons with cash collected at church, but there was no evidence that Bostick knew about the cash.  The victim was discovered in her home on a Sunday afternoon.  The South Carolina Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion discussed the sparse evidence, applied three of the Court’s prior decisions, and concluded that the trial court should have directed a verdict of acquittal because the evidence did not rise to the level of substantial circumstantial evidence necessary to submit the case to a jury. 

Korzen added, “Mr. Dudek believes the Court was able to rule in Bostick’s favor because there was a much more obvious suspect, one of the victim’s sons, who had argued with the victim the day before the murder and showed no grief when the victim’s body was found.”

The Appellate Advocacy Clinic represents indigent and low-income individuals in state and federal appeals.  Contact Professor Korzen for more information about the Clinic.