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Proposed South Carolina unit will tackle case backlog

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(The Center Square) — A new statewide Violent Crimes Case Reduction Unit will work to tackle South Carolina’s backlog of general sessions indictments.

Officials said there are at least 11,600 indictments that are three years or older pending in the state’s system, including murders. Some circuits have a backlog of more than 1,000 cases, officials said.

The Statewide Violent Crimes Case Reduction Unit would travel around the state and work with solicitors’ offices to tackle the case backlog.

“Justice delayed is justice denied — and that is simply unacceptable for the citizens of our state,” Speaker of the House Murrell Smith, R-Sumter, said in an announcement.

“I believe this collaborative effort to reduce the case backlog through the Statewide Violent Crimes Case Reduction Unit will provide prosecution agencies the assistance they need to give our state the results we deserve,” Smith added. “I look forward to working with my colleagues in the General Assembly to take the next steps towards bringing this important objective to life.”

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson requested lawmakers allocate $1.575 million for the unit. As planned, it would include 10 new full-time positions: four prosecutors, two investigators, two paralegals, one IT person and a victim’s advocate.

They will be divided into two teams, each with two prosecutors, an investigator and a paralegal, the attorney general said. The teams will share the IT person and the victim’s advocate.

“This would be a way for the attorney general’s office to dedicate resources to particular circuits and let them work with that circuit for months or years at a time until they get that backlog caught up,” Wilson said during a House Ways and Means Committee Criminal Justice Budget Subcommittee meeting.

The request also includes $100,000 for office space and $50,000 for trial support equipment.

Lawmakers previously appropriated $10 million for IT infrastructure so solicitors could procure new case management software and additional funding for public defenders’ and solicitors’ offices to hire more attorneys, Wilson told lawmakers.