James Robertson, York County’s only death row inmate, gets new shot at avoiding sentence

THE HERALD, 14 JANUARY 2017, FEAT. PROF. KENNETH GAINES:

Just when it appeared that Rock Hill’s James Robertson had run out of options in trying to avoid the death penalty, the S.C. Supreme Court has offered one more legal maneuver.

The S.C. Supreme Court ruled recently in a split decision that lawyers in death penalty cases must have a combination of death penalty trial experience, post-conviction relief experience, plus other continuing education. Robertson’s lawyers did not have that, the supreme court says. So, in an effort to reverse his conviction and sentence, Robertson gets a chance to argue that his lawyers blew the case in 1999.

Legal experts say Robertson’s chances are small. The ruling does mean a slim chance at avoiding the death penalty, said Kennth Gaines, a criminal law expert and professor at the University of South Carolina law school.