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Attorney: New chief magistrate appointed after Gosnell voluntarily stepped down

<font size="2">Magistrate James Gosnell at the bond hearing for Dylann Roof.</font>


COLUMBIA, SC (WCIV) -- The South Carolina Supreme Court on Wednesday replaced James Gosnell as chief magistrate, days after Gosnell made national headlines for comments he made during a bond hearing for the man accused of shooting nine people inside Emanuel AME Church.


Lionel Lofton, Gosnell's attorney, said Gosnell requested the move because his term expires in six days and he wants to focus more on the judicial aspect of his job as magistrate and less on the administrative tasks required as chief.


"I'm not at all surprised," Lofton said. "On the 23rd he notified Chief Justice (Jean) Toal he was no longer interested in being chief magistrate."


The order, signed by Toal on Wednesday, appoints Charleston County Magistrate Ellen S. Steinberg as the new interim chief judge for administrative purposes of summary courts. Magistrate Leroy Linen has been appointed associate chief judge. The change takes effect immediately.


Gosnell was the bond hearing judge for Dylann Roof, who faces nine counts of murder and a count of possession of a deadly weapon in the commission of a crime.


He was roundly criticized after telling the court, which included the members of the victims' families, that Roof's family should also be considered victims.


Said Gosnell: â??We have victims â?? nine of them. But we also have victims on the other side. We must find it in our heart at some point in time not only to help those that are victims but to also help his family as well.â??


Lofton said Gosnell's comments were made out of compassion.


"There's not a mean bone in the guy's body," he said of Gosnell.


He called Gosnell's comments a "non-issue."


"I thought all along this whole thing was a non issue. I thought that the media made an issue out of it," Lofton said. "We just want to move on. It's fine that they didn't wait six days to name a chief magistrate."


After the hearing it also came to light that the South Carolina Supreme Court in 2005 reprimanded Gosnell for racist comments made from the bench.


Court documents pulled from the South Carolina Justice Department's website show Gosnell, during a 2003 bond reduction hearing, told a defendant who is black â??there are four kinds of people in this world: black people, white people, rednecks, and n-----s.â??


According to court records, Gosnell claimed he knew the defendant, the defendant's father, and the defendant's grandfather. Gosnell told the high court he made the comment in an â??ill-considered effort to encourage [the defendant] to recognize and change the path he had chosen in life.â??


Magistrates are appointed by the governor every four years with the consent of the local senate delegation.




This story is from our sister-station, WCIV/Charleston.


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