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Michael Linder

On the night of June 7, 1979, 24-year-old Michael Linder was speeding on his motorcycle and did not stop when Highway Patrol Trooper Willie E. Peeples turned on his siren and followed him. Linder was driving with an expired license and led 28-year-old Peeples on a lengthy chase through Colleton County, South Carolina. The chase ended with Linder shooting and killing Peeples.

At Linder’s trial, his attorneys argued that Linder had shot Peeples in self-defense. They claimed that Peeples had used his car to run Linder off his motorcycle and had then fired at Linder, leading Linder to shoot the fatal shots back at Peeples. Prosecutors introduced as evidence six spent rounds of ammunition, which had been found in Peeples’s revolver. The prosecution claimed that the rounds had been fired from Linder’s gun and then placed in Peeples’s revolver to create the misconception that Linder had shot Peeples in self-defense. On November 10, 1979, Circuit Court C. Judge Victor Pyle Jr. sentenced Linder to death.

In May 1981, the South Carolina Supreme Court reversed Linder’s conviction and granted him a new trial because of flawed jury instructions. The court found error in Judge Pyle’s refusal to instruct the jury that Linder could be found guilty of manslaughter, as well as the Judge’s failure to poll the jurors on the death sentence.

Linder’s second trial took place in November 1981. For this trial, Linder’s defense attorney, David I. Bruck, had obtained ballistics results from the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division. In these tests, the spent rounds had been analyzed and the State Law Enforcement Division had concluded that the six shots had been fired from Peeples’s gun, not Linder’s gun. This evidence had not been available to Linder or his attorney at the first trial.

With the new ballistics evidence at the second trial to support Linder’s claim of self-defense, Linder was acquitted on November 9, 1981.

– Meghan Barrett Cousino

Most Serious Crime:Murder
Reported Crime Date:1979
Age at the date of crime:24
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence