COLUMBIA — A South Carolina man serving life in prison for two murders could soon get a new trial, according to a decision Wednesday by an appellate court.
The South Carolina Court of Appeals ruled that Jeremy McMillan, 27, should get another chance in court because of mistakes made by the judge during his 2008 trial.
That year, McMillan was convicted in the shooting deaths of Patrick Hood, 38, and Joshua Lee, 24. Investigators said that the men were killed after an early morning fight in a Lee County bar in April 2006.
McMillan and another man, Toby Fulmore, brought two handguns and a rifle to the club and shot both men and injured several others, the court wrote.
McMillan was convicted after a four-day trial. Just as proceedings were set to begin, Fulmore agreed to testify against McMillan, according to Russell Mace, one of McMillan’s appellate attorneys.
Fulmore pleaded guilty to accessory to a felony, serving about seven months in prison before he was released in 2009, according to state prison officials.
In picking the jury, attorneys for McMillan – who is black – objected to several jurors, some of whom were white. But the trial judge didn’t allow his trial team to strike one of those white jurors, agreeing with prosecutors that the objection came solely on the basis of race – something that isn’t allowed.
But McMillan’s appellate lawyers said the defense attorneys hadn’t wanted the juror, not because of race, but because it seemed that the person couldn’t be unbiased at trial, based on questions asked during the selection process.
McMillan’s attorneys made two other arguments in their appeal – including that the court hadn’t ruled on prosecutors’ introduction of McMillan’s criminal past – but the appeals court didn’t address those arguments after ruling that McMillan should get a new trial based on the juror issue.
State prosecutors said they were mulling their options.
“We are considering a petition for rehearing, concerning the impact that this decision would have not only on this trial, but in the manner that jurors are selected by both prosecution and defense,” said Mark Powell, spokesman for Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Mace said he was pleased.
“It’s a great result for Jeremy and his family,” Mace said by phone from his Myrtle Beach offices. “His family has stood behind him 100 percent.”