Bond Reform Panel Holds First Meeting

5:47 PM, Jul 29, 2013   |    comments
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Columbia, SC (WTLX) - A panel that will review policies and processes for issuing bond to alleged criminals in the City of Columbia met for the first time Monday.

"The members of this panel have a broad range of experience and background that could bring up some recommendations especially in regard to bonds," said former SLED Chief Robert Stewart.  "The situation with people continuously committing criminal acts, and being released on bond for serious violent crimes clearly is something that needs to be addressed."

Stewart will chair the panel formed by Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin after the shooting death of bakery worker Kelly Honeywell.

Police have identified 18 year old Lorenzo Young as a suspect.  When the incident happened, Young was out on bond and had a history of violent crime arrests.

"That's one of the difficult parts of our jobs, to re-arrest the same people over and over and over," said Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

Lott, who is also on the panel, sat next to the former SLED Chief in the first meeting.  "We catch them in a violent crime and we want to keep them there.  To me, they don't deserve the right to come back into the community and that's the ones we need to focus on."

Honeywell's death sparked a new look at an Early Legal Assistance policy between investigators and 5th Circuit Solicitors.

"The whole purpose of it, was to have an investigator and prosecutor early on in the process working together," said former prosecutor Johnny Gasser.

Gasser now works as a defense attorney and is also serving on the panel. 

"One of the things we were taught in the prosecutors office was not only enough evidence to arrest, but enough that you could go before a grand jury on a subsequent date and indict someone," he said.

Gasser helped the panel understand the relationship between investigators and the solicitors office and how an alliance between the two could help not only arrest criminals but convict them too.

City of Columbia Judge Carl Soloman, who is also on the panel, gave an overview of what a judge uses to determine a bond amount and an explanation of how repeat violent offenders sometimes get out on bond. 

"You also take into account victims rights, and defendants rights, and judges have to make decisions that are pretty tough regarding bonds," Soloman said.

The panel will hold it's second meeting August 5.  They hope to have formal recommendations prepared in as little as three weeks.

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