Man's bond will likely not change in shooting

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Andrew Tiller, an 18-year-old Sumter resident, is accused of shooting and seriously injuring two men Sept. 8 near Harmony Court Apartments in what police said was a scheme to frame one of Tiller's acquaintances.

Tiller was arrested later that weekend and was charged with two counts of attempted murder, two counts of attempted armed robbery and one count of possession of a weapon during a violent crime.

By Monday, Tiller was released on bond, having been ordered to pay a $37,500 surety bond and to wear an ankle monitor as conditions for his release.

That seemingly quick exit from custody has some questioning why Magistrate Judge Larry Blanding allowed Tiller to bond out, despite the serious nature of the charges.

Blanding has not responded to requests for comment.

Critics have pointed to a previous case in which Blanding refused to allow bond for a man accused of attempted murder.

In South Carolina, magistrates have trial jurisdiction over all criminal offenses which are subject to the penalty of a fine not exceeding $500 or imprisonment not exceeding 30 days, or both, but are limited in more serious cases.

Magistrates can set bond for more serious criminal offenses, but once a grand jury returns an indictment, the case is moved to circuit court.

Third Judicial Circuit Solicitor Ernest "Chip" Finney III said a defendant's next appearance in a court setting would be at his first appearance in approximately 20 to 40 days.

Finney said he was not certain whether such a hearing would be in magistrate court or circuit court.

Chief Public Defender of the Third Circuit Public Defender Office Timothy Murphy said the defendant typically would have a second appearance in circuit court in four to six months. At the second appearance, the defendant must designate a defense attorney or have one appointed by the court, and the discovery process begins.

"After the second appearance, you pretty much know if there is going to be a trial or some kind of plea deal," Murphy said.

Finney said that after the first hearing, the defendant is eligible for a preliminary hearing.

Barring any violation of the defendant's release orders, Murphy said it is unlikely for a bond to be reconsidered by the circuit court judge unless a motion to reconsider is made by either the defense or prosecution.

According to the South Carolina Criminal Code of Laws, circuit court judges "have the discretion to review and reconsider bond for general sessions offenses set by summary court judges," but Murphy said he is unaware of that ever being done.

Murphy said defense attorneys are more apt to file motions when their client is incarcerated.

Not much is expected to happen in the case any time soon, Murphy said.

Finney said the next court to hear the bond issue would be the circuit court.

"I can file a motion for reconsideration or to have the bond changed based on a change of circumstances or a violation of the conditions of the bond," he said. "I cannot file the motion just because the public doesn't like it."

Finney said he could file a motion based on a reason that wasn't covered by the judge in the first bond hearing.

Murphy said it is important to remember that the defendant is presumed innocent.

"I would emphasize that individuals are presumed innocent, and that presumption means something," Murphy said. "It is not a slogan, it is a fundamental right, and it lasts up to and including during jury deliberations. Only once the jury concludes there is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that there is guilt, the presumption is purged."