- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - South Carolina prosecutors are warning their offices don’t have enough money to keep up with thousands of criminal cases waiting for trial, leaving victims to wait for justice and increasing the risk suspects will commit additional crimes while free on bail.

South Carolina’s 305 prosecutors handle four times the national average of criminal cases, the South Carolina Commission on Prosecution Coordination said. Prosecutors also are responsible for pursuing more than double the 150 felony cases recommended by American Bar Association standards.

The heavy work load means cases take longer to get to trial, increasing the odds that witnesses will disappear or forget crucial testimony, Beaufort County area Solicitor Duffie Stone told The Post and Courier of Charleston (https://bit.ly/1AC6Ijt).

“Nothing good comes from delays for this state,” ranks sixth in the nation for violent crime, Stone said.

The state now spends $13.7 million on prosecutions, about 23 percent of funding for South Carolina’s 16 solicitor’s offices. Counties and municipalities must fund about 60 percent of those budgets, with the remainder coming from various programs and grants, the commission said.

Stone and 9th Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson, who oversees Charleston and Berkeley counties, are among those on the commission urging the state to spend another $7.7 million next year to hire about 100 more prosecutors, a nearly 60 percent increase. That would bring prosecution case loads down to a more manageable level of about 200 per attorney and ensure all 46 counties have at least one dedicated prosecutor, Wilson said.

Local funding variations have left prosecutors in impoverished, rural areas with much heavier duties, Stone said. McCormick, Saluda and Allendale counties don’t have a full-time prosecutor. Stone, who represents Allendale County, sends prosecutors there when he can.

“When we have violent people out on bond, we have a good idea of what’s going to happen,” Wilson said. “It can truly be a life and death situation for some.”

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Information from: The Post and Courier, https://www.postandcourier.com


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