Coroner no longer issuing warrants after inquest in toddler's death

Coroner no longer issuing warrants after inquest in toddler's death
Elijah Washington (Source: Live 5)
Elijah Washington (Source: Live 5)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County Coroner Rae Wooten announced Thursday she would not issue arrest warrants for two people after her inquest into the 2013 death of Mount Pleasant toddler Elijah Washington last week.

The jury in the inquest found the toddler's grandmother, Marty Dixon, to be an accessory and her boyfriend, Bryan Seabrook, responsible for the boy's death.

Attorney Mark Peper, representing Dixon and Seabrook, filed a request for a temporary restraining against the coroner, arguing there would be "immediate and irreparable injury, loss and/or damages will result to the plaintiffs" unless Wooten is restrained from signing the arrest warrants.

Coroner Wooten issued a statement saying she'll not be pursuing arrests.

According to the statement, "as such, in light of the solicitor's public statement following the inquest proceedings that any charges brought forth will be dismissed it is my belief that proceeding with the issuing of any warrants would only serve to consume judicial and public resources with no expectations that those responsible for the death of Elijah Washington will be held accountable."

Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson previously said she will not prosecute because "there are no new facts, erroneous testimony and exculpatory information that was not presented to the jury." The solicitor released an additional statement Thursday,

"We appreciate the Coroner's sincere desire to hold someone responsible for Elijah's death. But the Inquest testimony lacked the reliability the community expects in our criminal justice system. While it's true, an inquest is not necessarily a criminal proceeding, if an inquest were used to justify and obtain warrants for a person's arrest, it should be able to withstand scrutiny. We understand that the statutes related to inquests give a coroner broad discretion and authority. But just because an official has the power to act does not mean they should act; especially when they have information undermining their conclusions. The Coroner made the correct decision not to seek an arrest based on the inquest."

Peper says there are good reasons to have inquests but now he's calling for lawmakers to overhaul current inquest procedures.

"Because for every day this statue remains on the books is an additional day that somebody like Bryan and Marty, who've already been charged with a crime and had the crime dismissed, could be arrested by no burden of proof, no probable cause, an inquest that's been outdated by 200 years," Peper said.

Seabrook was previously charged in Washington's death, which Wooten said was caused by severe injuries to the child's stomach. Investigators have said there is no doubt the child died from abuse, but it is not clear who is responsible.

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