Judge says winner of coroner's race won't be on ballot

Filing for new election starts today


The judge who ruled earlier this month that LaNette Samuels-Cooper is not qualified to be a coroner in Clarendon County and South Carolina answered a request to clarify his ruling and said Monday she needs to be taken off the ballot.

A special filing period will start today at noon and last until noon on Aug. 21 for coroner in Clarendon County. If more than one person files, an election will be held on Sept. 4.

Samuels-Cooper beat Clarendon County Coroner Bucky Mock in the primary but was deemed ineligible by Third Judicial Court Judge R. Ferrell Cothran because of testimony claiming she does not have enough death investigation experience to be qualified for the job.

"There will be a ruling sometime today (Monday)," Cothran said.

Cothran made a split ruling at the beginning of the month saying Samuels-Cooper, who worked as an administrative assistant at the coroner's office for 13 years under her late brother, Hayes Samuels Jr., and Mock, who was appointed coroner by Gov. Henry McMaster in February after Samuels Jr. died and sued to challenge her qualifications, could be on the ballot as a candidate because Mock did not formally challenge the election results but that she cannot become a coroner without meeting the statutory qualifications.

The Clarendon County and South Carolina Democratic parties filed a motion last week to ask Cothran to reconsider or alter that ruling to provide clarification on whether they should take her off.

Both sides had arguments to why Samuels-Cooper should or should not be removed.

Samuels-Cooper's defense claimed Mock decided to wait for the outcome of the election to challenge Samuels-Cooper's status. They also said they want the judge to clarify what they looked at during a death investigation and claimed that Samuels-Cooper has more than 1,000 hours of death experience.

State law says first-term coroners have one year to become certified through an American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators-approved program. At least 640 hours of death investigation experience are required to sign up. According to testimony for this case, it takes about a year to accumulate 640 hours.

Mock's defense wanted Cothran to reconsider what he had just heard from Samuels-Cooper's defense, adding this was the fourth time they had raised the same arguments.

Samuels-Cooper's defense argued that Samuels-Cooper enrolled in a class at St. Louis University to become certified, but there was debate on whether this course was ABMDI-approved.

"The testimony is that it does not exist," Cothran said. "Coroners must be approved by a circuit judge, and we found your client didn't qualify."

Cothran also added that in the death investigation, it was determined that Samuels-Cooper did not make a decision on death, which is what a coroner and deputy coroner must do.

Samuels-Cooper's defense then argued that nurses do not weigh in on the notion of death, but they can qualify to become certified.

Mock's defense argued that was not appropriate for the Rule 59-E motion they were hearing Monday and had difficulty with the statute.

Cothran determined that Samuels-Cooper did go to the hospital several times, but it was with the magistrate and not the coroner or deputy coroner, so that does not count as death experience.