Senators heard testimony Wednesday supporting tougher penalties for day care workers or caregivers who abuse children. Heather McCarter’s 3-month-daughter was killed in 2001 in Chester County. According to McCarter, “My child was left in the care of someone I trusted and my child was killed.
“The person who hurt my baby girl, who was three months old, got five years probation. That’s not right.”
McCarter tearfully told the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee that she also suffered delays in the court system. “The justice system in South Carolina needs to change,” she said. “It needs to not only have a mandatory sentence, but it also needs to have a faster process. My personal case took five years to go to court and by the time it made it to court, nobody cared anymore but me.”
Bill S. 348, known as Kendra’s Bill is named for Kendra Gaddie, who suffered long-term brain injury from abuse by her child care giver. Her father also testified Wednesday before the Senate subcommittee. “Travelled from Providence Northeast Hospital to Richland Memorial–was one of the worst nights in my life. I made the entire trip knowing my daughter’s brain was bleeding and she was suffering,” Gaddie recalled.
“Everday she spent in ICU (Intensive Care Unit), with IVs running and monitors beeping all around her, I knew in my heart, the monster that did this to my six-and-a-half-month-year-old baby would be spending many of the years of her life in jail.”
Patrick Gaddie says he was shocked to learn that was not the case. “You cannot imagine our shock when Talisha Smith walked out fo the courtroom before we did,” he said.
“What just happened? Why is she not going to jail? It was then that Michelle and I began our research of the crime of great bodily injury to a child in South Carolina.”
The bill has now moved to the Senate Judiciary Committee and is slated to be discussed Tuesday. Testimony includes Cherokee County case.
Michele Gaddie, the mother of Kendra, pleaded with Senate subcommittee members to pass the bill this session. She took issue with opponents who say the bill’s minimum sentencing guidelines would cost the court system. “are we now placing a cost for justice on our children?” she questioned. “Does justice for our children now have a price tag? I say to all of you, if one more person produces the argument of the cost of a trial as a price tag, I may vomit.”
Those are the guidelines that prevent subcommittee chair Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, an attorney, from supporting the bill as written. He said, “I think in the case we’ve heard, the sentences that were given out were in error. There were mistakes made. But I don’t think that we can legislate my mandatory minimums afixed to that. I think that’s why we have jusdicial screening to make sure these cases come to light and they don’t repeat themselves.”
In spite of Hutto’s vote, Kendra’s bill has now moved to the full Judiciary Committee. Fellow Democrat Joel Lourie of Richland County, spoke on behalf of the bill saying, “and I am a co-sponsor along with Senator (Mike) Fair and Senator (Vincent) Sheheen. I know members of the subcommittee that sometimes there is a tendancy not to look carefully at this concept of mandatory minimums. I would just argue to the members of the subcommittee that, when somebody inflicts this much pain on a child and on a family, and they are convicted, they deserve to serve sometime in prison and I think the minimum is reasonable.”