LEXINGTON, S.C. – A memorandum this week from the chief justice of South Carolina’s Supreme Court prompted the release of seven defendants from the Lexington County Detention Center.

“While more detainees will be released in accordance with Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty’s order during the state of emergency, it’s important for community members to know each and every release will be handled on the basis of a court order,” Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said. “That’s always the case and the way the system works. We strictly abide by court orders when it comes to who gets out and when. 

“The directive to magistrates, municipal judges and summary court staff states anyone charged with a noncapital crime as the COVID-19 response continues ‘shall be ordered released pending trial on his own recognizance without surety, unless an unreasonable danger to the community will result or the accused is an extreme flight risk,’” Koon said.

Inmates incarcerated before COVID-19 are also affected by the chief justice’s instructions to judges, according to Koon.

“The judicial order also calls for pretrial detainees to be released from jail on a personal recognizance bond if the individual has already been held for the maximum possible sentence of an offense,” Koon said. “Detention commanders are communicating with judges to ensure detainees are serving the proper amount of time in accordance with the chief justice’s directives handed down earlier this week in response to COVID-19.”

“All county magistrates are vigilantly monitoring the judicial branch’s response to COVID-19 and how we can work with others in the justice system to ensure the safety and security of our citizens,” Lexington County Chief Magistrate Rebecca Adams said. “The order from the Supreme Court is a significant part of that response and it’s our duty to follow it in an orderly fashion.”