COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) – The early release of a convicted murderer was vacated by the South Carolina Supreme Court in a 3-2 ruling Wednesday afternoon.

The Supreme Court said Jeroid Price must serve the remainder of his prison sentence. The order came down hours after justices listened to arguments surrounding his early release.

Price was found guilty in the 2003 murder of Carl Smalls Jr. at a Columbia night club. A judge sentenced Price to 35 years in prison with no chance of parole until he served 30 years in prison.

Price was released from prison earlier this year, 19 years into his sentence. He was released following an order signed by now-retired Circuit Court Judge Casey Manning. The December 2022 order for his release was sealed until last week.

Officials say prior to the order, no hearing was held and the Smalls family was not notified about Price’s early release.

In court, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson argued the order violated state law and victim’s rights. In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Wilson wrote, “Secret orders and backroom deals have no place in our justice system. I hope this sends a clear message to the people of South Carolina: our procedures matter and no one is above the law.”

Price’s attorney, Todd Rutherford, said in court the order was sealed to protect Price’s identity. Price had cooperated with officials and notified them about the escape of dangerous inmate Jimmy Lee Causey in 2017.

State law allows convicted criminals to earn time served credit for cooperating with prosecutors to help put others behind bars.

Rutherford said he had requested to have Price’s sentence reduced after he helped officials. Rutherford said he met with the Fifth Circuit Solicitor Byron Gipson and Judge Casey Manning to discuss this reduction.

The state Attorney General’s Office argued the time served credit should not trump the mandatory-minimum of 30 years in prison for a murder conviction.

According to Rutherford, returning Price to prison would be a “death sentence” for his client.

“Putting Mr. Price back in prison with persons that know he gave information leading to the arrest and capture of an escaped inmate will put Mr. Price’s life in jeopardy,” he said.

Smalls’ family was in court Wednesday. His father, Carl, spoke briefly with reporters following the hearing.

“At the end of the day we still have a dead son,” he said. “He didn’t get 35 years, he got life. He didn’t have an attorney to help reduce his sentence.”

The Supreme Court said they will file a written formal opinion for this ruling in the future. You can read their order below: