Originally created 09/15/03

Lawmaker wants to change bond process in domestic abuse cases



GREENVILLE, S.C. -- A state lawmaker says the process of letting domestic abuse suspects out of jail needs to be retooled to protect victims better.

Rep. Gloria Haskins, R-Greenville, came up with the proposal she is calling "Maranda's Law" following the shooting death of a woman by her ex-boyfriend.

Maranda Williams, 24, was killed by shotgun blasts to the back on Sept. 3 as she worked in the deli department in a Bi-Lo grocery store.

Her ex-boyfriend, Charles Christopher Williams, was charged with murder and is being held at the Greenville County Law Enforcement Center.

Charles Williams had been arrested and charged with assault and battery with intent to kill after Maranda Williams was beaten in the head until she was unconscious in the parking lot of the same store where she was slain.

He was released within hours after Greenville County Magistrate Shirley B. Keaton set bond at $45,000.

Keaton said she thinks the bond was appropriate, but she has changed the way she handles such hearings. She plans to put more conditions on bonds, she said, and have more contact with the victim before setting someone accused of abuse free.

The case got the attention of Haskins, who said she shops at the Bi-Lo where Williams was killed.

"This is something where you're threatening the life of an individual," Haskins said. "That's not something we can afford to just sit around and wait" to fix.

Haskins said her bill would not mandate that accused offenders be held without bond before trial. "Realistically, we would have such an overcrowded jail problem," she said. "We're not ready for that yet."

Renee Middleton, executive director of the Safe Harbor emergency shelter, said state lawmakers have to give judges more power to hold domestic abusers in jail.

"A judge isn't going to do it unless some legislation is passed giving them permission to do it, because they get in big trouble with civil liberties people if they try to deny some perpetrator his rights," Middleton said.