Former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon says it’s at the circuit court judge’s discretion whether to grant bond to someone charged with murder and he estimates about half of those accused of the crime get it.
Condon says, “The bond situations can vary greatly, but again the same two factors do come into play: danger of flight, danger to the community. So, the setting of a bond in a murder case is not unusual.”
But there is one additional factor for Michael Slager and that’s the trial date. The trial is set for October 31, 2016, almost a year and a half after his arrest. Solicitor Scarlett Wilson asked for a late fall date so she can focus on the trial of confessed Emanuel AME shooter Dylann Roof in July, then still have time to prepare for Slager’s trial. Condon says defense attorney Andy Savage’s motion for a speedy trial made all the difference.
Condon says, “The defense has made a speedy trial motion, which is highly unusual. Most defendants do not want a speedy trial, it’s the last thing they want. They want a trial many years from now in the hopes that the state’s case will weaken by witnesses moving away, you name it. So, they made a speedy trial and that’s the change in circumstance. The state elected, which is also understandable, to try this case after the Roof case, so you have a built-in delay of almost a year, which could infringe upon the defendant’s right to a speedy trial. So, weighing the circumstances, I think judge Newman’s decision is certainly defense-able and understandable.”
Condon says any threats of community violence do not come into play when a judge is considering bond.
He says, “The fact that others might break the law in response to a judicial decision, he wouldn’t be worth his salt as a judge if he were to allow other people’s illegal activities to influence the decision. So, if that even came into play, I’m certainly proud of Judge Newman for not deciding to keep this defendant in jail because others might commit crimes.”
Under the conditions of Slager’s release, he must stay in the state of South Carolina, cannot contact Walter Scott’s family, and must remain on house arrest. This means he can only leave the house to go to the doctor, court, his attorney’s office, and church.
The National Action Network asked Solicitor Scarlett Wilson to appeal the bond decision, but Wilson told News 2 there is not appellate process. The state can only seek a revocation when there are grounds for it. Wilson says in this case, she has no intention to seek a revocation because there is no basis for one at this time.