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Coroner lawsuit update

After returning from recess, Judge Cothran stated he would like to hear testimony regarding the case. He stated the case had two main issues. Cothran acknowledged that the first issue of the date of filing, brought up earlier this month, was likely a case that needed to have been brought before the Democratic Party through the protest process. However, he felt the validity of LaNette Samuels-Cooper’s qualifications to have run for office is a different issue, and would likely be under his authority to judge. Cothran will hear all testimony and rule on the motion and the case within a few days. After clarification, he agreed the attorneys could give information regarding both portions of the case, so it would be on the record in the case of an appeal. Opening arguments began with Rob Tyson of Robinson Gray Stepp & Lafitte, who represents Coroner Bucky Mock. He briefly touched upon the date validity of the affidavit filed by Samuels-Cooper and quickly moved on to her qualifications. He made the point, quoting South Carolina state law, that only a coroner or deputy coroner can perform death investigation. Coroner Bucky Mock was called to testify at 10:25 and remained on the stand until 12:50. Tyson questioned him on death investigation procedures and the requirements to become coroner. During cross-examination, Ronnie Sabb with the Law Offices of Ronnie A. Sabb, LLC., who represents Samuels-Cooper, began laying groundwork regarding Samuels-Cooper’s qualifications as it pertains to death investigation experience. He read from the South Carolina regulations on on-call death investigators, who receive credit hours of death investigation based on type of investigation and whether or not an investigator went to the scene. He discussed the number of hours of credit Samuels-Cooper would have received, if she had been a death investigator.

Sabb asserted the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators (ABMDI) was protecting the status of coroners and deputy coroners by not allowing persons who were in other positions to accrue death investigation hours. He is asserting she would have death investigation experience because she answered phone calls in the night to dispatch a coroner or deputy coroner to a scene, as well as experience because she requested medical records and personal records of the deceased. However, Tyson countered with the fact that this is state law. Tyson asserted that nowhere in state law or with the ABMDI does it say that an administrative assistant is a death investigator. Shawn Kent of Kent Law Firm, representing the Clarendon County Board of Elections, questioned Mock. He verified Mock does not think the Board of Elections did anything wrong, and they were not notified of an issue prior to the suit. The attorney representing the Clarendon County and the South Carolina Democratic Parties asked Mock if he had notified the Clarendon County Democratic Party. He verified he had. However, he had not brought a formal protest at that time, as he was not told he had that option. Court recessed at 12:50 and will reconvene after a brief lunch break. Manning Times will continue to give updates as they become available.  


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