Goal should be justice, not spin

A little less than one year ago, The Post and Courier published a letter I wrote in response to an article concerning the acquittal of Tyrone Winslow Jr. Mr. Winslow sat in jail for two years waiting on a murder trial that “by all accounts, never should have happened.” Mr. Winslow was finally freed when Circuit Court Judge Stephanie McDonald directed a verdict of not guilty after finding that the state had failed to prove its case. Comments at the time by Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson spurred that letter. In the article, Solicitor Wilson blamed the needless prosecution of Mr. Winslow on the defense, stating, “Had we known the information presented in court, we would have made the same decision the judge made, only much sooner.”

My letter pointed out how misleading those statements were, as the court’s decision was based on the utter lack of evidence presented by the state, as well as the fact that Solicitor Wilson’s office could have dismissed the charges at any time. Three days ago, The Post and Courier ran an article about murder charges being dismissed against Regina Carey. Once again, Circuit Judge Stephanie McDonald had to do what the Ninth Circuit Solicitor’s Office was unwilling to do: seek justice. In a ruling Solicitor Wilson described as “understandable under the facts of the case,” Judge McDonald threw out murder charges, finding Ms. Carey had no choice but to act in self-defense. Despite this “clearer picture” emerging as an investigation was conducted by the state, Solicitor Wilson has stated that all involved appeared to make reasonable decisions based on what was known at the time. It is not reasonable for a mother to be separated from her three children, one a week old newborn, for six months awaiting trial on false charges as Ms. Carey was. It is not reasonable for the state to pursue a murder case so weak it does not call a single witness or even challenge Ms. Carey’s account of the events at the hearing last Friday. It is not reasonable for Solicitor Wilson to continue to pass the buck to the courts when it is her ethical duty to seek justice. Solicitor Wilson has recently led the charge seeking to have South Carolina Supreme Court Justice Donald Beatty recused from hearing disciplinary matters involving prosecutors because she did not like the tone Justice Beatty took when warning solicitors of their ethical duties in a closed-door meeting this past September. The residents of the Ninth Circuit would be better served if Solicitor Wilson would concentrate on her duty to seek justice in our criminal courts instead of trying to spin the court of public opinion. Patrick J. McLaughlin, Attorney at Law, 2nd Loop Road, Florence Patrick J. McLaughlin is the immediate past-president of the South Carolina Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.