Expert: Criminal case not likely considering age of students in 5th-grader’s death

State - Regional

CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) – Following the gut-wrenching death of a Colleton County fifth-grader, many have asked what sort of legal issues could be in store.

Right now investigators with the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office are likely firming up what exactly happened before and during the Monday classroom fight that ultimately killed 10-year-old RaNiya Wright.

Former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon, who is now in private practice, says a case forward is tricky, and that’s why many of the details surrounding the incident haven’t been released. Condon says the investigators will want to determine the social history of the students involved in the fight and pinpoint who made the first physical contact.  He said it’s likely deputies are combing through dozens of interviews with both fellow students and school staff.

Condon says those key details are paramount to determine if a crime was actually committed, but he doesn’t believe a criminal case is likely considering the ages of the students involved.

An elementary age student isn’t likely to have the capacity to stand trial for a crime.  

“Most kids that age wouldn’t be competent to understand I’ve committed a crime; I need to assist my lawyer; I’m responsible for the criminal intent that would be a requisite here,” Condon explained to Count on 2 investigator Rebecca Collett.

There could be legal trouble for the Colleton County School District though.  He said a suit could stem from a civil case. He said the school district could be held liable since it’s a reasonable expectation that a fight would be broken up by the adults in the classroom before it escalated to death.

“Depending on the facts, that teacher, from my estimation, would have a duty to keep the children safe. If that teacher doesn’t intervene or stop a fight in an appropriate or reasonable amount of time,  I do think civil liability on the teacher and the school district would be there, “Condon explained.

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