Civic leaders seek court changes to address Five Points crime - - Columbia, South Carolina

Civic leaders seek court changes to address Five Points crime

Martha Childress Martha Childress

The shooting of a University of South Carolina student in Columbia's Five Points has launched a quest by city and county leaders to shore up public safety in that district.

Several believe at least some relief can be generated through the courts.

Since the shooting of freshman Martha Childress, we've seen reactions that include shock, anger, and frustration.

Now, we're hearing proposals aimed at constructive change. Some of those proposals involve the courts and are said to be relatively simple and easily implemented.

On Monday, the attorney for Childress' family, along with her stepfather, outlined a list of possible remedies. Included on what they called "Martha's List" were measures attorney Joe McCulloch says won't require legislative action or extensive study. He says, for instance, municipal court and magistrates should no longer be holding bond hearings unless the judge is provided with the defendant's criminal history.

Judges have that information in general sessions court, but magistrates and judges in city courts quite often do not. That means someone out on bond for a previous and sometimes serious offense could get released again.

Other proposals include requiring bonding companies to notify law enforcement and the courts when their clients are re-arrested and requiring someone from the solicitor's office to be present at bond hearings in the lower courts.

Mayor Steve Benjamin is also exploring the idea of civil injunctions aimed at gangs.

Meanwhile up in Greenville, where Childress is from, Sheriff Steve Loftis and a state lawmaker issued a call for changes in state laws on gang related crime.

Loftis even called for criminal and gang profiling, and says it also is time to re-evaluate the state's Stand Your Ground law.

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