Sheriff who pursued Phelps pot case apologizes for getting murder wrong

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott apologized publicly Friday to a man falsely accused by deputies and local prosecutors in the May 2006 Mother's Day slaying of the man's wife at a Columbia apartment.

During a news conference, Lott offered the apology to Justin Mallory at the same time he announced that a California man had confessed to the murder of Nekia Mallory three years ago.

The suspect, 25-year-old Joshua Porch, was found by Richland County deputies in Long Beach, Calif., this week, and confessed to the murder. Porch is a former Columbia resident and one-time friend of Justin Mallory who testified against Mallory at trial. Lott declined to say what the motive was behind the killing.picture

Justin Mallory, a 28-year-old father and a Spring Valley High School graduate, was acquitted of murder charges in December, the second time he had been tried for murder. His first trial resulted in a hung jury.

Lott, who invited Mallory to the press conference, said the results of the two trials and his department’s willingness to reopen the case show the criminal justice system worked, even though Mallory and his relatives suffered in the short-term.

“We are sorry that our investigation went in the direction that it went,” Lott said. “But with the evidence that we had and everything that was presented that way, I think any reasonable person would look at it and say y’all probably went the right way. Luckily, the criminal justice system worked.”

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