HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – An Horry County man is suing the county for malicious prosecution, false arrest and negligence after an appeals court reversed his homicide by child abuse charge in connection with the 2011 death of his girlfriend's grandson, according to court documents.
Robert Palmer, who was tried and convicted jointly with Julia Gorman in 2011 for the 2008 death of Gorman's grandson, successfully appealed the court's decision and the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed his conviction, according to a copy of the complaint filed by an attorney on Palmer's behalf.
The court found that while there was evidence that Palmer and Gorman were both around when the child sustained trauma that left him in a vegetative state, there was not sufficient evidence to prove that Palmer caused the trauma, or was complicit in it.
Palmer was released from the state correctional facility in 2015 after nearly four years of false imprisonment, according to the complaint. Because of the incarceration, Palmer lost his job, was left without access to his family and children, suffered "mental anguish and emotional distress," and "continues to have nightmare about what [he] had to go through in prison and continued to be in need of psychological and/or psychiatric services including counseling for these injuries," the complains states.
Palmer is seeking actual and punitive damages, as well as attorney fees for false imprisonment, negligence, malicious prosecution, deprivation of civil rights and false arrest, according to the complaint.
"It really is a judgment call," said 15th Circuit Solicitor Jimmy Richardson. "The judge couldn't be criticized either way."
Solicitor Jimmy Richardson's office isn't named in the case, but did prosecute Palmer and his girlfriend. He says these cases are tough because there are usually few witnesses and little direct evidence.
Richardson says that leaves prosecutors to piece the case together by circumstantial evidence, something a judge, jury, and appellate court were ok with before the Supreme Court overturned everything.
We did speak with Palmer's mother but she chose not to comment at her attorney's instruction.
Horry County also chose not to comment since the lawsuit is still pending.
View a copy of the complete complaint here, which includes the Supreme Court opinion clearing Palmer.