Former solicitors: Retrial of accused cop killer will be costly, but worth it

SCADP note: This story is somewhat confusing, as Luzenski Allen Cottrell is already included on the SC Department of Correction’s most recent list of death row inmates. The story was published by

A new trial began Monday for a man charged with killing a Myrtle Beach police officer in 2002. Luzenski Allen Cottrell will be tried before a new jury in the 2002 shooting death of Officer Joe McGarry.Authorities say McGarry confronted Cottrell outside a Dunkin’ Donuts and the officer pinned Cottrell against a car as he questioned him.

The 2 struggled and investigators say Cottrell shot McGarry in the face.

Cottrell was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in April, 2005.

In 2008, the South Carolina Supreme Court overturned the conviction because the jury was not allowed to consider a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.

It’s likely Cottrell will never get out of prison, because he’s also serving a life sentence in an unrelated murder case.

But 2 former prosecutors say going ahead with the retrial in the McGarry case is still the right thing to do.

Former Horry County solicitor Ralph Wilson says the death penalty retrial will likely cost several hundred thousand dollars and state taxpayers will cover nearly all of it.

“They’re paying for the defendant’s lawyers, they’re paying for psychiatric evaluations, for mitigation experts, they’re paying for doctors, they’re paying all these costs,” Wilson said.

But Wilson says the state can’t put a price on justice.

He says a solicitor needs to send a message to other criminals that murdering a police officer will not be tolerated.

“You kill law enforcement while they’re in the performance of their duties, then we’re going to come after you and we’re going to come after you with everything that we have,” he said.

Former solicitor Greg Hembree, who tried Cottrell the 1st time, says the retrial will be tough on McGarry’s family.

But when he was solicitor, Hembree says he would tell the victims’ families that the decision on going to trial had to be up to him alone.

“I’ll take your thoughts and your feelings into consideration, as we go down this decision making process, but I’m not going to hand that off to you,” said Hembree.

Both former solicitors say current solicitor Jimmy Richardson made the right call in deciding to retry Cottrell.

“The reason why (Cottrell) should be prosecuted in my view for the death penalty is because he deserves the death penalty,” said Hembree.

Wilson says the retrial may not be the popular decision, but it’s the right one and sends a message to police that the prosecutor will stand behind them.

Attorneys in the Cottrell case are under a gag order and Richardson did not return calls seeking a comment.


Update: Jury expected to get Cottrell case today – myhorry

Update: Jury says Cottrell guilty of murder in killing of Myrtle Beach police officer – The State