New domestic violence prosecutor brings down dismissal rate of cases in Horry County

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – At the beginning of the year, we told you the 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office hired a new prosecutor to solely handle domestic violence cases because Solicitor Jimmy Richardson said 80% of those cases were dismissed. Most of those dismissals were because victims no longer wanted to press charges.

The new prosecutor, David Cooley, says the whole idea behind his position is to follow cases from start to finish, and that’s what he’s done with dozens of cases in the last five months. Since he started in January, he says they’ve dismissed less than five cases.

When Cooley started, he told us he had about 300 cases to work through.

“Now, the case load seems like it’s gotten busier,” said Cooley.

Cooley says last month alone about forty people were booked in the J. Reuben Long Detention Center for a domestic violence charge.

“Victims feel more empowered to call law enforcement knowing that their case will be handled rather than quickly dismissed,” said Cooley.

Thirty to forty cases per month for Cooley is a rough estimate, but right now, they’re just trying to keep up with the number of cases coming in the office.

“We have reached the point to where we’re holding our own and going back against the backlog of cases that were already here and that is our goal going forward,” said Cooley.

Cooley says he’s been able to follow cases from start to finish with less than five dismissals thanks to extra eyes on the case files, victim’s advocates helping them through the process, and new permanent restraining orders they’ve been able to implement this year.

“We move the cases to resolution as fast as we can because we understand there’s dynamics that play into this area that aren’t in other areas. Banks typically don’t send you a letter thirty days later and ask that you dismiss the charges against the robber because he was a good person,” said Cooley.

Cooley says the cases that were dismissed since he started were for good reasons.

One was because the defendant died and others were dismissed because facts of the case didn’t warrant further progress.

Still, Cooley and others we’ve talked to with the Family Justice Center say more needs to be done, including a shelter in Horry County where victims of domestic violence can stay to escape from their abuser.