Eighth Circuit Solicitor David Stumbo recently completed his first full year as the Solicitor of the Eighth Judicial Circuit, which is comprised of Greenwood, Laurens, Abbeville and Newberry counties.
Stumbo took over as Solicitor last January after defeating incumbent Jerry Peace in the Nov. 2012 general election. During his first year in office, more trials were held throughout the Eighth Circuit than the two previous years combined. Of those trials, 90 percent of the defendants were convicted. Just 43 percent of defendants tried in 2012 were convicted by a jury.
Greenwood County Sheriff Tony Davis says Stumbo and his entire staff have been instrumental in getting serious offenders off the street.
"In my opinion, from a law enforcement standpoint, Solicitor Stumbo's first year in office has been a huge success," Davis said. "He, along with his assistant solicitors, communicate and work extremely well with law enforcement. Without assistance from the Solicitor's Office, we could not get the most serious cases into court. Solicitor Stumbo's office is committed to working with law enforcement to keep our communities safe."
Stumbo personally tried 10 cases in his first year in office. Two of those cases resulted in sentences of life without parole for the defendants involved. During his campaign prior to the 2012 general election, Stumbo said he would be "leading from the front" and personally trying cases in front of juries. The focus of his campaign - and his first year in office - was to secure convictions on violent offenders and those committing crimes against children.
Stumbo's first year was anything but a walk in the park as Greenwood County experienced its most violent and most deadly years ever. A total of 17 people were killed during Stumbo's first year. More than half of those can be attributed to domestic violence incidents. The worst incident occurred on Oct. 29, 2013, when Bryan Sweatt killed five people, including two children, before turning the gun on himself. Just a week later, another murder-suicide was committed by a jilted lover. The incidents led Stumbo to form a domestic violence task force throughout the Eighth Circuit to help stop the disturbing trend of domestic violence in the area.
Stumbo continues to face an uphill battle in 2014 with a backlog of cases. According to the American Bar Association, prosecutors can handle about 25 warrants per year. Currently, prosecutors in the Eighth Circuit have about 600 warrants each on average. That number is consistent with what prosecutors were handling before Stumbo took office, in spite of the greater amount of time prosecutors have spent in front of juries during Stumbo's first year.
Stumbo says his office needs more attorneys and support staff to help reduce the backlog throughout the circuit. In spite of that, Stumbo has set a lofty goal of reducing the backlog in the Eighth Circuit by 50 percent in 2014.
"Our staffing is a little better than it was last year at this time," Stumbo said. "Court administration is giving us some non-jury weeks in General Sessions court to focus guilty pleas and motions. It is a lofty goal, but I would rather aim high."
Stumbo says he has a very talented and dedicated staff committed to making the communities of the Eighth Circuit a safer place to live. The first year, he says, was a success.
"I feel really good about (the first year)," Stumbo said. "I feel like we accomplished what we set out to accomplish. Our first goal was to change the culture. We wanted to take serious criminals to trial and get convictions. We did that and it sets the tone for us going forward."