Solicitor explains charges in bicyclist fatality

The South Carolina Highway Patrol finished its investigation into a wreck that killed a bicyclist on Beech Island Avenue "several weeks ago," Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. said this morning.

Any charges against the driver, Daniel Johnson, were delayed, though, to avoid double jeopardy, Thurmond said.

Dr. Matthew Burke was one of five cyclists struck from behind by Johnson's Dodge Durango on Oct. 1. Burke was in a coma until his death Sunday evening.

Thurmond said a charge of reckless driving was possible, but if Johnson pleaded guilty or was convicted of the charge, it would have made it much harder to press the current charge of reckless homicide.

"A double jeopardy argument could have been made," said Thurmond, referring to the constitutional amendment that protects citizens from being charged with the same crime twice in a case.

Thurmond said his office was "certainly hoping" that Burke would recover from his injuries, but added "it's illogical to serve a warrant for reckless homicide if the victim is still alive."

Asked about a reckless driving charge for the four other cyclists injured, Thurmond replied that was a decision to be made on the magistrate level. 

A bond hearing is scheduled for Johnson at 3 p.m. today.

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