I-Team: Hundreds living free charged with violent crimes

Standing before a judge and fearing the person charged with killing your loved one goes free is unnerving.

“Why should Slager hug his son,” the mother of the late Walter Scott asked a judge during his bond hearing.

But Charlies Condon says bond is a right for every person arrested, and it’s how our justice system operates.

“Under our system of law, we are all presumed to be innocent,” he explained.

Defense attorney David Aylor says there are two requirements to bond.  A judge must decide if the suspect is a flight risk or danger to the community.

“They will look at their prior record and what the charges are currently,” he explained.

Aylor says a judge may also consider factors like family ties or work history.

With massive backlogs in our court system, keeping every suspect in jail would be impossible.

“It would be beyond comprehension,” Condon explained. “Forget about the liberties of those wrongly accused,” he continued. “It would cost millions and millions of dollars.”

Meaning even those who face very serious and violent charges can go free until trial.

The News 2 I-Team request court data from Dorchester County and found:

  • 87 people charged with burglary
  • 71 with sex crimes
  • 48 with murder or attempted murder
  • 133 weapons charges
  • 2 people charged with arson
  • 51 with robbery
  • 59 with assault
  • 421 with drug charges

According to Charleston County General Sessions Court there are:

  • 57 murder charges
  • 203 assaults
  • 42 sex crimes

Although the numbers would be even higher when municipal charges are added to the list. Condon says bond is a way of ensuring the suspects will show up for court to face their charges.

“Even if it’s a serious charge, the standard for bringing a charge is this low standard called probable cause,” he explained, adding it means more likely than not.

That’s a low standard compare to the standard to convict someone in court which is proof without reasonable doubt.   Condon says the justice system is ultimately set up to protect the innocent.

“We would rather have 9 guilty go free than convict one innocent,” he concluded.

There are ways judges can try to ensure safety from violent offenders.  For example, a bondsman monitors the suspect. Judges can also require that person to wear a GPS tracker.

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