On June 15th, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson appealed a decision granting a new sentencing hearing to Justice 360 client Johnny Bennett. Wilson appealed despite undisputed evidence that racial bias infected the decision to sentence Mr. Bennett to death in 2000.
Mr. Bennett, who is African American, was sentenced to death by an all-white jury in Lexington County, South Carolina. A juror who sentenced Mr. Bennett to death referred to Mr. Bennett as “just a dumb nigger.” At the sentencing hearing, Solicitor Donald Myers made numerous inflammatory references to Bennett’s race, calling him “King Kong,” a “caveman,” a “beast of burden,” and elicited other racially charged testimony in pursuit of a death sentence. Myers also intentionally told the jury that Mr. Bennett previously had a white girlfriend, a fact completely irrelevant to the case.
Justice 360 is disappointed that Wilson has decided to defend such blatant racism. The public and elected leaders in South Carolina have demonstrated that we are ready to put the racist relics of our past behind us, yet Attorney General Wilson continues to defend continued racism in the criminal justice system.