EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Court of Appeals of South Carolina Finds Wrongfully Convicted Defendants Don't Have a Constitutional Right to Compensation

Recently, the Court of Appeals of South Carolina issued its opinion in Palmer v. State. That opinion answered a simple question: Does a wrongfully convicted defendant have a Constitutional right to compensation for his years of imprisonment? And, according to the court, the answer to that question is "no."

Robert Palmer

and his then-girlfriend Julia Shawnette Gorman were charged with homicide by child abuse in the death of Gorman’s 17-month-old grandson, Aydian Grimes....


[Subsequently,] the S.C. Supreme Court reversed Palmer’s conviction, though the panel upheld Gorman’s. Justices wrote that there was no evidence that Palmer was aware of the victim’s injuries or caused them.

Palmer thereafter sought compensation for his wrongful imprisonment. One of his claims was that he had a right to such compensation under the Takings Clause of the United States and South Carolina Constitutions. The court rejected this claim, finding that

Palmer concedes no state supreme court throughout the nation has found a civil remedy for wrongful imprisonment exists under the Takings Clause of any state constitution or the United States Constitution.

Palmer's other constitutional claim was that "the South Carolina Constitution protects his right to a remedy for a wrongful conviction by way of an implied right of action for money damages." The court, however, rejected this claim, finding that

We will not create an implied cause of action for wrongful conviction in South Carolina because it is not for this court to create such an action when the legislature has specifically declined to do so.[2]

[2] A bill creating a cause of action for wrongful conviction was introduced in the South Carolina Senate but was not passed. See S. 1037, 119th Gen. Assemb., Reg. Sess. (S.C. 2012), to amend Chapter 13, Title 24 of the South Carolina Code to read "Article XXII Compensation for a Wrongful Conviction." The bill passed in the senate but did not pass the house of representatives.

More recently, I worked with Representative Mandy Powers Norrell the last two years on legislation that would have created a wrongful conviction compensation statute in South Carolina. Unfortunately, that legislation has not gotten traction despite "[t]he federal government, the District of Columbia, and 33 states hav[ing] compensation statutes of some form."

Hopefully, this decision provides an impetus for this legislation to pass.



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