CONWAY — A man serving a life sentence in prison for the deaths of an Horry County couple will have to wait to know a judges decision on his request for a new trial.
Richard Gagnon was convicted in 2008 of killing Charlie and Diane Parker who were found dead in their S.C. 90 home on April 12, 2005. His lawyer Bob Dudek, chief appellate defender with the Commission of Indigent Defense, argued Monday that new evidence in the case would likely result in a different outcome for Gagnon.
Judge Steven H. John asked Dudek to show specifically when the defense learned of each new piece of evidence and the date the appeal was filed. Gagnons appeal for a new trial, the judge explained, has a specific time stipulation requiring an appeal to be filed within one year of the actual date of discovery.
If you did [meet that date] Ill issue a ruling, John said. If you didnt, all this is for not.
Greg Hembree, solicitor for the 15th Judicial Circuit, said none of the evidence presented during the hearing was new.
So much of this evidence, really all of this evidence was available, was there, was known, [and] a lot of it was argued at the first trial, he said. I think [the defense is] going to have a difficult time with a lot of this saying they didnt know about it because they did. They simply did.
The evidence is new, Dudek said, and he said he was prepared to give the date information to the judge Monday, but that it was clear to him John wanted it spelled out in writing.
He doesnt anticipate having trouble meeting the one-year threshold.
I think once we lay out how everything came to be known to us and how we put this case together I suspect [Judge John] wont have any problems.
At the start of the hearing Gagnon entered the court wearing a khaki jumpsuit, handcuffs and chains and smiled at someone sitting in the courtroom, but then sat listening to the testimony with a straight, somber face.
Tabor City, N.C. native Bruce Antwain Hill who was also convicted in the Parkers murders in 2011, was brought to the courtroom from Tenessee where he is serving a sentence on a unrelated robbery charges.
Dudek expected Hill to testify that he didnt know Gagnon and had never met him, statements he had previously made in an affidavit.
On Monday though, Hill sat at the front of the court in a red jumpsuit with long dreadlocks falling into his face, and said nothing while his lawyer said he was going to invoke his Fifth Amendment right.
Hills choice not to testify was a surprise to Dudek who questioned why Hill ever took a meeting with him in the Tennessee prison and signed the affidavit.
I was real taken aback by that, he said. He should have said from Day 1 Im not going to talk to you guys.
Robert Troy Taylor testified Monday that Robert Mullins lied at Gagnons initial trial when he insinuated that Gagnon had confessed to his part in the murders.
Taylor, who is also serving a life sentence in South Carolina, said he was in the same jail as Mullins and that Mullins had told Taylor at least four times between 2006 and 2007 that he had lied and Gagnon was wrongfully in prison because of it.
Deputy Solicitor Jimmy Richardson asked Taylor multiple times why he hadnt told anyone Mullins story before, and Taylor repeatedly explained that life is different in jail and if he shared that information he wouldve been called a snitch and would have been hurt.
Taylor said he had put Mullins story out of his mind until he met Gagnon at Lee Correctional Institute and said Monday that he couldnt stand to see an innocent man stay in prison if he could do something about it.
During the September hearing, Nico Coty Toscani, said Mullins had admitted the same lie while the pair was incarcerated together at Tyger River Correctional Institute.
Hembree said the testimony of Toscani and Taylor is the only evidence that Dudek can argue is new.
The only thing that was arguably new was the statements from these jailhouse informants that are now buddies with Gagnon, he said.
Hembree said the credibility of Toscani and Taylor is questionable, but Dudek said he wouldnt have asked them to testify if they werent and said neither had anything to lose.
The other issue, Hembree said, is that the new evidence cant be merely an impeachment.
That means if the evidence just goes to show that somebody was lying, then thats not sufficient to grant a new trial, he said. The reasoning is because anybody could overturn a conviction by simply claiming the story had been made up.
Jeffrey Hollifield, formerly a chemist for the State Law Enforcement Division and now a chemistry professor at Lander University, testified as an established expert on gunshot residue (GSR) about the SLED test results taken in 2005.
The SLED data showed Gagnon didnt have GSR values consistent with him recently firing a gun or being near a recently fired gun, Hollifield said, but Charlie Parker Jr., did.
Hollifield said the data showed Charlie Parker Jr. had likely fired a gun, was within 2-feet of gun fire, or had been close to some other explosive. Hembree argued the GSR was on Charlie Parker Jr. because he had touched his father when he rolled him over to attempt CPR.
Some residue is expected from touching a gunshot victim or even gun that had been fired, Hollifield said, but said not in the amounts found on Charlie Parker Jr.
I find it hard to believe the levels would be so high on a second transfer, he said.
Either way, Hembree said the GSR testing data is irrelevant because it was available in Gagnons initial trial and shouldnt be considered new evidence now.
Had [Hollifield] done some sort of new analysis or new testing, then maybe so, Hembree said.
Contact AMANDA KELLEY at 626-0381.