‘Dr. Death’

Editorial, Washington Post

IN JUST a few months, Donnie Myers’s long and lethal tenure as a top prosecutor in South Carolina will come to an end. If past is precedent, so will the bumper crop of death sentences in his jurisdiction.

Mr. Myers, known locally as “Dr. Death,” has personally secured 39 death sentences against 28 defendants — some were tried twice — in a 38-year career as solicitor of South Carolina’s 11th Judicial District. He is notorious for keeping a paperweight model of the state’s electric chair on his desk, for his race-baiting courtroom histrionics, and for playing fast and loose with legal rules. According to an analysis by Harvard Law School, courts have found he committed misconduct in 46 percent of his capital cases, and six death sentences he secured were subsequently overturned.

Mr. Myers, who has been convicted of drunken driving and, recently, charged again for the same offense, could usher in a big change when he retires this year. If South Carolina’s 11th Judicial District follows what has become a pronounced pattern, the exit of one overzealous prosecutor could bring about a sharp drop in the imposition of the death penalty.

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