Lawyer Shocked By New Charges Against Stephen McDaniel

4:36 PM, Aug 24, 2011   |    comments
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Video: McDaniel Silent and Frail at Court Hearing

Stephen McDaniel at his first hearing on child-exploitation charges.

Former Mercer law student Stephen McDaniel was in court Wednesday for the fourth time in less than two months.

McDaniel is charged with killing fellow law school graduate Lauren Giddings.

On Wednesday, McDaniel appeared before a magistrate in a jail courtroom on seven counts of child sexual exploitation -- possessing child pornography. The hearing was held to let McDaniel hear the charges against him. He did not enter a plea and there was no discussion of bond.

PHOTOS: McDaniel's Court Appearance on Wednesday

New arrest warrants signed Tuesday said investigators found seven images on a flash drive in McDaniel's apartment that showed children engaged in sexual situations with adults.

McDaniel arrived in the courtroom at the Bibb County Law Enforcement Center just before 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

After seven-and-a-half weeks of confinement, McDaniel appeared frail and stooped as he approached the judge with tiny, shuffling steps.

He was accompanied by nurses.

The magistrate asked McDaniel if he understood the charges against him and his lawyer, Floyd Buford, responded that they did.

McDaniel never spoke and the entire hearing lasted less than ten minutes.

McDaniel is to appear in court again on Friday at a commitment hearing on murder charges.

Lauren Giddings' torso was found June 30 outside the Macon apartment building where she lived next door to McDaniel.

The next day, he was arrested and charged with two break-ins at the apartment complex. Police said those charges were unrelated to the Giddings case but they named him a person of interest in her death.

On August 2, he was charged with felony murder.

Buford said he was "shocked" by the new charges. He would not say if the pornographic material belonged to his client, but said McDaniel plans to plead not guilty.

Buford says McDaniel is "having a difficult time," in jail. He says McDaniel has lost 17 pounds while incarcerated. The attorney says he thinks it's a combination of the physical and mental stress of jail time, but he would not rule out a physical ailment as well.

He says McDaniel is being cared for well at the LEC's infirmary.

Adding to the stress, Buford says, is the fact that McDaniel is still held in solitary confinement. He says McDaniel's interaction is mostly limited to regular visits from his family and visits from the lawyer.

Otherwise, he says, McDaniel spends his time reading.

Buford says McDaniel's mother and father stand behind him and his innocence and were shocked to hear of the new charges.

Despite heavy news coverage of the Giddings case, Buford says he still hopes they'll be able to get a fair trial in Bibb County.

He says they'll worry about whether to request a change of venue "when the time comes."

A commitment hearing on the child-exploitation charges will be held in three weeks.

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