Charles Livingston—Free indeed

April 2015 - Profile
by Jean Wilund

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April 2015 - Profile

“Mrs. Livingston, you’ll never see your son walk the streets of Columbia again.”

These words rang in Carrie Livingston’s ears as Dick Harpootlian, then Columbia’s Deputy Circuit Solicitor, stood before the court, asking the jury to convict her 32-year-old son for murders he didn’t commit.

Months earlier, in October 1981, police arrested West Columbia native Charles Livingston, along with Willie Stroman and Frank McDowell, for the murders of a voodoo-practicing “root doctor” and three others during a robbery gone fatally wrong. An accomplice liability in South Carolina known as The Hand of One, the Hand of All allows a judge to deliver an equal sentence to someone associated with an offender, even if he didn’t commit the crime. Thus, while McDowell confessed and was later convicted of the murders, Charles’ close association with him also allowed the judge to sentence Charles to life in prison.

Despite having enjoyed success in the business world in the years leading up to the crime, Charles had wanted more. The drug world lured him and paved his path to the two drug dealers. He’d chosen their company, and now he’d share their fate—multiple, consecutive sentences, including ten terms of life imprisonment. Harpootlian, satisfied despite not having garnered the electric chair verdict he’d sought, would later say in the July 1, 1982, Sumter Daily: “I think you will never see these individuals again.”

Why did Christ die for you?

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