Judicial system, paper failed Tiara Stevens

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John Baker

The citizens of Lancaster County should be outraged at the victimization of Tiara Stevens by her father, Fred Lee Montgomery. They should be outraged that it took more than a month after the trial for The Lancaster News to publish the story. It had already been widely reported in print, radio and television nationally and internationally.
Lancaster citizens should be outraged at the failure of the solicitor to bring this case to trial years ago. They should also be outraged at in the failure of the solicitor to obtain justice for Tiara Stevens, in the apparent indifference of the judge to an unspeakable crime.
The details of the crime are so shocking that I am left speechless. And yet, it only gets worse.
It took 14 years to bring the case to trial. Solicitor Doug Barfield says that he accepts full responsibility for the case lingering. Lingering? Is the solicitor’s office so disorganized that it does not even know what cases are pending and for how long?
The case finally went to trial on Nov. 5, 2012, at which time Montgomery pleaded guilty. A reasonable person, considering the nature of the crime, would have expected that a judge with any integrity whatsoever would have sentenced Montgomery to the maximum. However, Circuit Judge Ernest Kinard felt that suspending a 15-year sentence to one year in prison was adequate. One year? Are you kidding me?
Where is the justice for Tiara Stevens?  She certainly received none in these proceedings.  In fact, I would argue that just as she was victimized in 1998, she has again been victimized in 2012.
Is it any wonder that Lancaster County and South Carolina have been ridiculed by various media outlets, including WBTV (Charlotte), WLBT (Mississippi News Now), WTVM (Columbus, Ga.), The Daily Mail (London) and The World News Network (New York and Singapore), who have suggested that we apparently have no problem with such unspeakable crimes.
Well, I do have a problem with such crimes and with those who fail to do anything about them.
I do agree with Barfield on his statement about responsibility. He is responsible. I plan to hold him responsible at the ballot box in the next election. I encourage every citizen of the entire 6th Judicial Circuit to do the same.
As for Circuit Judge Ernest Kinard, it is clear to me that his idea of justice and mine have absolutely nothing in common. This is not a matter of economic standing, race, religion or of any other adjective. This is a matter of justice. A judge who would suspend a sentence in a case like this to one year in prison does not represent the values that the citizens of Lancaster County expect and deserve.
I call on the Lancaster County delegation, including our newly elected District 44 representative, to take a hard look at whether Circuit Judge Ernest Kinard should continue to serve on the bench. Considering his judgment in this case, I do not feel that he is fit to continue.
Finally, I am profoundly disappointed in The Lancaster News, first, for delaying so long in reporting the story, and second, for failing to condemn the imposition of a minimalist sentence for an unspeakable crime.


John Baker is a Lancaster County resident.