CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) — Victims of violent crimes and their families say they feel let down by the justice system after suspects out on bond are accused of committing more crimes.
It’s a problem seen recently in the Lowcountry. Last week, police said a man shot a 9-year-old child in downtown Charleston while out on bond for murder.
In October 2021, Lequandra Royal, 27, was shot and killed in Orangeburg. Six months later, her accused shooter was out on bond. Now, Lequandra’s family in Goose Creek says they feel the state justice system has failed them.
“They [police] did tell me that he was caught leaving the scene after she was trying to leave him, and he shot her,” Lequandra’s mother, Sharon Royal, said.
Ralkeem Gidron was arrested shortly after the shooting and charged with murder. Six months later, he was granted a $125,000 bond. On April 12, he bonded out of the Orangeburg Detention Center.
Lequandra’s family said it’s something that should not happen.
“So, he’s bonded out on house arrest — I don’t think that’s right,” Royal said.
Elvin Speights supports Lequandra’s family and others that have similar frustrations.
“I was furious – like, how does this guy get bond?” he said. “And once again, we watched the system fail us.”
He fears violent offenders getting bond could lead to a rise in crime.
“The re-hurt goes for them because it’s like, we were trying to get him off the streets,” Speights said.
Former Attorney General Charlie Condon said setting bond in South Carolina isn’t solely based on the crime.
“Key factors for either denying bond or setting bond are two things: danger of flight — are you going to leave and not show up for court — or danger to community,” he said. “That’s what these statutes speak to.”
Bond can also be denied for those charged with violent crimes in South Carolina.
“A magistrate can deny bail for only a few specific crimes,” Condon said. “Capitol offenses, murder — things of that nature.”
During his time in office, Condon said he talked to many families dealing with frustrations about the way bond was set.
“The hard part about this is they view the bonding status as one of which they’ve gotten out and they haven’t been punished,” he said. “While there’s this legal explanation — it’s not a matter of punishment, it’s a matter of showing up to court and/or not being a danger to the community. It’s hard to communicate that especially when they’ve suffered such great harm.”
Anyone charged with a crime in the United States is innocent until proven guilty. Condon said that can make it tough on prosecutors and judges when they are making decisions.
“If we are going to continue to have that as a bedrock principle, how do we address those that misbehave pretrial? It’s a very challenging question,” Condon said.
Speights thinks the answer is simple.
“Violent offenders stay in jail until they go to court,” he said. “That’s how the system is supposed to work.”
Lequandra’s family said that, ultimately, they feel failed by the judicial system.
“I’m not taking that, and I’m going to fight,” Royal said. “He needs to be back in jail.”