Lawsuit against 4 over Beaufort mother's child amended, defendant dropped

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comMarch 27, 2014 

A lawsuit filed by a former Beaufort resident who claimed she was maliciously prosecuted after the death of her son in 2006 is continuing with one less defendant after the suit was amended in U.S. District Court last week.

The changed complaint, filed by Paris Avery's attorneys March 17, drops the estate of late Beaufort County Coroner Curt Copeland as a defendant. Copeland died in 2010. Three other defendants remain: former deputy solicitor and current Beaufort County Magistrate Angela McCall-Tanner, Beaufort County Sheriff's Office investigator Christine Wilson, and forensic toxicologist Demetra Garvin.

Mary Bass Lohr, the attorney representing McCall-Tanner and Wilson, said she would likely refile motions to dismiss the case against the two, who were involved in the investigation and prosecution of Avery's homicide-by-child-neglect charge.

Avery, a former Beaufort resident, filed suit in January, about seven months after the S.C. Supreme Court overturned her 2008 conviction in the August 2006 death of her 15-month-old son, Ra'Saan. Avery was sentenced to 35 years in prison and served five before her release. She has since moved to Tacoma, Wash.

The lawsuit argued that Avery's due process rights to a fair trial were violated repeatedly by McCall-Tanner, Wilson and Garvin. It also claimed that the three conspired against Avery in the investigation and prosecution of her case, and that McCall-Tanner and Wilson maliciously prosecuted her.

The lawsuit argued that McCall-Tanner misstated evidence during the trial and told jury members they could not rule out the possibility Avery meant to kill her son. It also says McCall-Tanner and Wilson downplayed the likelihood Avery accidentally gave her son tablespoons of prescription antihistamine, rather than teaspoons.

The suit also claims Garvin, an expert who testified that Avery might have administered antihistamine as a sedative, gave a medical opinion well beyond her area of expertise.

A civil conspiracy claim against McCall-Tanner, Wilson, and Garvin was dropped from the amended suit, as was the claim for repeated due process violations. Federal conspiracy and malicious prosecution claims against the three remain.

Attempts to reach Avery's attorney Elizabeth Franklin-Best for comment were unsuccessful.

Follow reporter Matt McNab at

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