The lawyer for an Horry County man accused of a 19-year-old murder wants her client’s indictments dismissed because police and prosecutors engaged in “a pattern of systematic misconduct” that included destroying video of another man confessing to the crime, according to a motion filed last week.
Gary Wayne Bennett, who has been incarcerated for nearly 20 years, maintains he did not kill Eva Marie Martin in 2000. Bennett’s lawyer, Amy Lawrence, filed a 62-page motion on Friday that accuses Horry County police and the 15thCircuit Solicitor’s Office of “gross misconduct.” Lovely noted that state officials challenged her request for the testing of DNA evidence for more than a year. The test results ultimately showed Bennett’s DNA was not present on any items of evidence.
HCPD spokeswoman Mikayla Moskov could not be reached Monday. Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said in an email that he had not read Lawrence’s motion but couldn’t comment on the case anyway.
Lawrence declined to discuss the case beyond the statements in the motion.
“I think it speaks for itself,” she said via email.
Lawrence took Bennett’s case in 2017. Since then, she has raised concerns about how the state handled its evidence against him.
Martin, the victim in the homicide, was killed in her home on May 23, 2000. Initially, police charged Bennett and a man named Andrew Lindsay with the murder.
In 1990, Lindsay was convicted of murdering a woman in Illinois, but that information was not presented at Bennett’s trial, court records show.
Prosecutors used Lindsay’s testimony against Bennett. Lindsay received a plea deal that allowed him to admit to being an accessory after the fact, according to court records. Linsday testified that he and Bennett were at Martin’s home when he overheard him killing her while he was in another room.
The prosecution's case hinged on Lindsay's testimony.
Bennett maintained his innocence, but he was convicted of murder and armed robbery on Aug. 14, 2002. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Bennett’s conviction was upheld by the appeals court, so he sought post-conviction relief (PCR), a last ditch effort to secure a new trial. In his pursuit of PCR, Bennett said his trial attorney had been ineffective.
Johnny Gardner, who is now the Horry County Council chairman, received Bennett’s case about five months before the trial. Gardner corresponded occasionally with Bennett, but never met with him until the day of the trial, according to public records. Gardner never investigated the case and did not try to find any alibi witnesses that Bennett provided to him, records show. He also didn’t challenge the prosecution’s introduction of phone records that were not disclosed before the trial.
In 2014, Judge Benjamin Culbertson granted Bennett post conviction relief.
Since then, Bennett has been awaiting a new trial. He is now 56 years old.
The motion Lawrence filed Friday focuses on how the police treated Lindsay. On July 24, 2000, police allowed Lindsay to meet with his then-wife Tera McDermott in a police interrogation room.
McDermott was the goddaughter of an Horry County police captain and the daughter of a Myrtle Beach police officer, according to court records.
“While in the interrogation room, Lindsay confessed to the murder of Eva Marie Martin,” according to Lawrence’s motion. “Specifically, Lindsay confessed to McDermott that he raped the victim and slit the victim’s throat.”
During the same meeting in the interrogation room, Lindsay and McDermott had sex, the motion stated.
Paul Partin, an Horry County police officer at the time, made two video recordings: one of Lindsay and McDermott alone and another of investigators interviewing Lindsay.
But Bennett did not know about the recorded evidence of Lindsay and McDermott until after his new trial was granted, according to the new motion.
When his attorney Lawrence requested the recordings, they had been edited, were of poor quality and did not show the meeting between McDermott and Lindsay, the motion states. Lawrence then asked to see the original tapes in person, but those tapes also didn’t show McDermott and Lindsay alone.
Partin has said the released recordings do not depict what he recorded and are not the original tapes.
During a hearing last year, an assistant solicitor told the court she had spoken with everyone involved with the Lindsay interview and there was no recording of Lindsay and McDermott alone. However, the prosecutor did acknowledge a written reprimand that a detective received for recording Lindsay and McDermott having sex.
A copy of that reprimand was filed with the motion on Friday.
“The incident was recorded and preserved on video without audio emission,” the reprimand from 2000 stated. The document was signed by Guy Osborne, the HCPD captain who was McDermott’s godfather.
“The Horry County Police Department destroyed the videotape in bad faith and the State withheld exculpatory evidence from Defendant when Defendant’s charges were pending, during his trial, during his appeal and during his PCR proceedings,” Lawrence’s motion stated. “Despite continuously being confronted with evidence regarding the existence and contents of this videotape, the Assistant Solicitor and the Fifteenth Circuit Solicitor’s Office have engaged in willful blindness and misled Defendant’s Counsel and the Court in a blatant effort to conceal the existence of Andrew Lindsay’s confession and the extent of the State’s misconduct in this case.”
Lawrence contends Bennett’s indictments should be dismissed because he cannot receive a fair trial without the Lindsay video.
“The State maliciously prosecuted Defendant for murder in 2002 and should not be granted the opportunity to do it again in a retrial of this case without the missing videotape,” Lawrence wrote.
On the same day Lawrence filed her motion, Horry County attorney Arrigo Carotti also filed a motion to quash her subpoenas for police records in the Bennett case.
Lawrence asked for the internal affairs files of five HCPD officers, according to the subpoena. The attorney wanted the records for Bill Knowles, Todd Cox, George Meritt, Robert Maxwell and Tina Vaught McKenzie.
In his motion, Carotti wrote that Lawrence is seeking information that is protected from disclosure.
County spokeswoman Kelly Moore declined to comment on the county attorney's motion.