(Columbia) The State
At Alex Murdaugh's S.C. bail hearing, a 'taste of justice' for the victims
One news cameraman arrived just around 5 Tuesday morning to make sure he was on time.
Others soon followed.
By the time Alex Murdaugh walked handcuffed and shackled into courtroom 3A on Tuesday morning, dozens of still and video cameras and cellphones were pointed in his direction with many more waiting outside the Richland County Judicial Center in Columbia.
The charges, on their face, seemed quite ordinary - obtaining property under false pretenses - and in some ways it was simply the case of a man allegedly caught stealing.
But that's where the ordinary gives way to the surprising, the shocking, the extraordinary.
Here was Alex Murdaugh, often described as a prestigious lawyer, scion of a great legal family, one of South Carolina's elite, clothed in a navy jail jumpsuit escorted by sheriff's officers at every step.
The bail hearing, often a short, routine event, lasted about an hour or so, with Attorney General prosecutor Creighton Waters representing the state, calling Murdaugh's alleged crimes "a chain of events that I've never seen before."
Sitting behind Creighton's team was the family of Gloria Satterfield, Murdaugh's longtime housekeeper who died after falling at the Murdaugh home in 2018.
It was their property, prosecutors say, Murdaugh obtained under false pretenses.
Waters said it was Murdaugh who told the family they could sue him and win an award from his insurance company following Satterfield's death, but Waters said Murdaugh then orchestrated a scheme that would allow him to divert the proceeds, about $3.3 million, to his personal bank account.
An agent from the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, better known as SLED, told Judge Clifton Newman that other investigations into Murdagh were ongoing. Waters called the case "the tip of the iceberg."
Rather than grant the state's request to release Murdaugh with a $200,000 surety bond or the defense request to release him on his own recognizance, Newman took a different route.
He denied Murdaugh bail and instead ordered he be held and undergo a psychiatric examination.
The decision surprised longtime court watchers, but attorney Eric Bland, representing the Satterfield family, welcomed the judge's decision.
"I think it's a good day for justice," Bland said as he faced a sea of television cameras and reporters outside the courthouse following Newman's ruling.
His law partner, Ronnie Richter, agreed.
"The Satterfields got some taste of justice today, so thank you Judge Newman," Richter said.
A taste of justice?
But Murdaugh's case has a long way to go and, while Bland and Richter say they expect to receive all of the money owed to their clients, the money isn't in their hands just yet.
Murdaugh also faces charges related to a conspiracy in which he says he paid another man to shoot him in the head so Murdaugh's surviving son could collect the insurance money.
He has lost his ability to practice law in South Carolina, and his now former law firm PMPED says Murdaugh stole millions from them.
The June 7 killings of Murdaugh's wife, Maggie, and his son Paul, the case which seems to have triggered everything that has followed, also remains unsolved.
With each new charge or revelation, interest in Murdaugh grows, but for the good of our state and the people in it, the focus must stay firmly on obtaining true, long-lasting justice for the victims and prosecuting wrongdoing at every twist and turn.
"It was important to demonstrate that influence and power does not create a second tier of justice in this state," Richter told reporters outside the courthouse.
Richter is spot on.
When the spotlight fades and stories of this prominent, wealthy Lowcountry family no longer warrant the front page of national publications, South Carolinians must know that no amount of wealth or privilege can protect those who commit crimes here from finally getting their comeuppance.
The (Charleston) Post and Courier
How S.C. schools can ensure DHEC's quarantine rules don't backfire
We're sure a lot of parents - even parents who take COVID-19 seriously - were thrilled by DHEC's decision last week to loosen South Carolina's school quarantine rules.
We hope their excitement is justified and that this will turn out to be a good decision that keeps more kids in the classroom without significantly increasing the number of students who get sick with COVID-19.
But we all need to recognize that the change doesn't come without risk. We all need to understand that the quarantine rule change can - and should - be reversed if school infection rates start climbing again. And our schools need to take actions that are well within their grasp to reduce the possibility of a reversal.
One of the most important lessons we learned in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic was that remote education simply isn't an acceptable substitute for in-person classes.
Even when students have homes with reliable internet access and parents who can help, most students don't learn as well on Zoom as they do in a brick-and-mortar classroom. And even those students who learn just fine this way miss out on the social and emotional aspects of interacting with their peers, which are at least as important.
Two-week quarantines certainly don't hurt children as much as being forced to learn from home for months at a time, but the proliferation of quarantines this year has been worrisome.
So when DHEC got enough data to feel confident that infection rates inside schools were falling, and that only around 4% of quarantined students were testing positive - less than half the general population - Director Dr. Edward Simmer, state Epidemiologist Dr. Linda Bell and Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC's director of public health, looked for ways they could safely reduce the number of kids in quarantine.
What they came up with departs from the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the rules the state had been using for most of this school year. Under the old rules, students who were within 3 feet of an infected student for 15 minutes or longer over the course of a day had to quarantine for up to 14 days unless both students were wearing a mask. Under the new rules, students who were wearing a mask won't have to quarantine unless they develop symptoms, even if the infected student was unmasked.
Dr. Traxler tells us the combination of that low infection rate and studies showing that masks provide some protection to the wearers (not as much as to those around the wearers, but some) convinced the three doctors it was worth relaxing the rules both to keep more kids in the classroom and to encourage more students to wear masks.
"As we have warned folks all along, we're going to follow the science, and we're going to adapt, whether that's to make it more strict like we did a couple of weeks into the school year or to make it more flexible," she said. "We will change it back if we start seeing more cases popping up among those kids who otherwise would have quarantined. But the three of us felt that it was an exceedingly low risk."
It's important to note that school quarantine policies really weren't an issue last year, even in Charleston County and other school districts that offered in-person classes all year. Although the delta variant appears to infect children more easily than the original virus, that's not the big reason for the change. The big reason is that last year, students and teachers were required to wear masks in all the schools. (The problem last year was those districts that refused to bring students back into the classroom until ordered by the Legislature.)
The main reason so many kids are being booted back to remote learning for sometimes revolving two-week periods - and the reason some entire schools and even districts have had to go remote for limited periods - is that so many kids are not wearing masks.
And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, that points to what school districts need to do to ensure that DHEC doesn't go back to requiring all students who were exposed to an infected student to quarantine, even if they were wearing a mask: Require everyone to wear masks.
We understand districts' initial reluctance to impose mask mandates this year: The Legislature passed a law in May that was designed to prevent those requirements. But the S.C. Supreme Court made it clear in an August ruling that districts are free to enact and enforce mask mandates using local funds, federal funds and even state funds allocated in previous budget years.
And last month, U.S. District Judge Mary Geiger Lewis issued a restraining order and injunction that barred the enforcement of the state anti-mask law. That means the only thing stopping school districts from requiring students and teachers to wear masks is the school boards. Regrettably, three weeks later, Charleston County, two of Richland County's districts and a handful of smaller districts remain the outliers with mask requirements.
It's past time for the other districts to join them, so we can make even more progress toward the goal of DHEC and all of us: to keep more kids in the classroom, and safe from infection.
The (Orangeburg) Times and Democrat
Homecoming for celebrating HBCUs
Homecoming is a special time. And nowhere more than Orangeburg are homecomings a time to reflect on what the city's two historically Black universities mean to our locale.
A year after COVID-19 forced homecoming observances to be anything but normal, South Carolina State University, the state's only publicly supported HBCU, celebrated its homecoming this past week, with events culminating in Saturday's football game. Claflin University, the oldest HBCU in the state, is marking homecoming in November, with the presidential inauguration part of those festivities. Events were and are being held in person, with COVID-19 protocols observed.
Both institutions serve as beacons in the educational process for African Americans and many others. Their records of educational success are significant. Their legacies carry on through generations of alumni. Their economic impact is substantial.
Just how significant economically was quantified in a 2017 study commissioned by the United Negro College Fund.
"HBCUs Make America Strong: The Positive Economic Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities" breaks down impact by institution for the nation's 100 HBCUs. The report includes employment by the schools and projected earnings of graduates based on 2014 data.
S.C. State University
- Total economic impact: $145 million in total economic impact for its local and regional economies. The estimate includes direct spending by S.C. State on faculty, employees, academic programs and operations - and by students attending the institution, as well as the follow-on effects of that spending.
- Total employment impact: Generates 1,546 jobs for its local and regional economies. Of this total, 756 are on-campus jobs and 790 are off-campus jobs.
For each job created on campus, another one public or private-sector job is created off campus because of S.C. State-related spending.
Looked at in a different way: Each $1 million initially spent by S.C. State and its students creates 10 jobs.
- Total lifetime earnings for graduates: The 698 S.C. State graduates in 2014 can expect total earnings of $1.8 billion over their lifetimes- 59 percent more than they could expect to earn without their college credentials.
Viewed on an individual basis, a South Carolina State graduate working full time throughout his or her working life can expect to earn $984,000 in additional income due to a college credential.
- Total economic impact: Generates $79 million in total economic impact for its local and regional economies. The estimate includes direct spending by Claflin on faculty, employees, academic programs and operations - and by students attending the institution, as well as the follow-on effects of that spending. Every dollar spent by Claflin and its students produces $1.04 in initial and subsequent spending for its local and regional economies.
- Total employment impact: Generates 835 jobs for its local and regional economies. Of this total, 406 are on-campus jobs and 429 are off-campus jobs.
For each job created on campus, another 1.1 public and private-sector jobs are created off campus because of Claflin-related spending.
Looked at in a different way: Each $1 million initially spent by Claflin and its students creates 11 jobs.
- Total lifetime earnings for graduates: The 396 Claflin graduates in 2014 can expect total earnings of $1 billion over their lifetimes - 70 percent more than they could expect to earn without their college credentials.
Viewed on an individual basis, a Claflin graduate working full time throughout his or her working life can expect to earn $1.1 million in additional income due to a college credential.
It's likely that despite some difficult times brought on by COVID-19 and other factors, both institutions have as much or more impact today than shown by numbers from seven years.
Call it dollars and sense: For homecoming and at all times, the two universities give Orangeburg many reasons to celebrate being their home.
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