Appellate court agrees on throwing out SC death sentence


COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – An appellate court says a South Carolina man should be released from death row because a prosecutor’s “racially coded references” made a fair sentencing impossible.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that a lower federal court was right to throw out the death sentence against Johnny O. Bennett.

Bennett has been on South Carolina’s death row for two decades for the killing of a 24-year-old man, stabbed more than 60 times with a screwdriver. He was first sentenced to death in 1997, but that was overturned. A jury sentenced Bennett to death again in 2000.

In that second trial, before an all-white jury, Solicitor Donnie Myers compared Bennett, who is black, to “King Kong on a bad day.”

Myers didn’t return a message seeking comment.

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