Driver is charged in death

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Daniel Johnson was in the Aiken County jail Tuesday night, charged with reckless homicide in an October crash that killed a bicyclist, records show.

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Johnson


Johnson, 41, was charged 19 weeks after the crash on Beech Island Avenue that critically injured Dr. Matthew Burke, an orthopedic surgeon at Fort Gordon. Burke died Sunday.

Johnson was booked at 7:25 p.m. Lance Cpl. Judd Jones of the South Carolina Highway Patrol confirmed the charge Tuesday night.

The crash happened about 6:40 p.m. on Oct. 1 as a group of about 15 cyclists pedaled their usual Friday route after leaving Outspokin' Bicycles in Augusta.

Some cyclists said they heard a pickup's engine revving right before the moment of impact on the rural, two-lane road. The impact knocked over four cyclists but launched Burke into the air. He suffered severe head injuries and remained in a coma until his death.

Burke, a U.S. Army major, worked at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center and spent six months in Iraq. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and 11-month-old daughter, Anna.

A funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic Church, his brother, Paul Burke, said Tuesday.

Laura Farmer was one of the cyclists struck by the Dodge Durango driven by Johnson.

The road rash on her arm has healed into a scar, but a torn rotator cuff still pains her, even after more than four months of therapy.

She said she has been troubled by the pace of the investigation, but was glad to hear that a charge had been filed.

"That's good news," she said.

A message for Solicitor Strom Thurmond Jr. in Aiken was unreturned Tuesday.

South Carolina law defines "reckless homicide" as driving a vehicle with "reckless disregard of the safety of others."

A person who pleads no contest or is convicted of the charge faces no more than 10 years in prison and a mandatory five-year driver's license revocation, according to scstatehouse.gov.

In a separate incident, cyclist Pascal Limouzin is still in the hospital after he was hit by a car Jan. 23 on Banks Mill Road in Aiken.

The driver, Drew Ward, fled but turned himself in a week later and is charged with hit-and-run with great bodily injury, according to SCHP.

Tom Lex with the Aiken Bicycle Club said safety on the road is the responsibility of both motorists and cyclists.

Law enforcement can help to a point, but most roads in Aiken County belong to the state and troopers are spread too thin to be much help, Lex said.

"What is feasible is thoroughly educating the public on the laws and rights of cyclists on the road," Lex said.

Since the wreck in October, Farmer has ventured out twice on a bicycle. But it has been on a protected path away from the road at Fort Gordon.

Whether she rides in Beech Island again is another question.

"Maybe when people pay better attention," she said.

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usapatriot
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usapatriot 02/09/11 - 01:02 pm
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I think some of you watch to

I think some of you watch to many police/court TV shows. Sorry, but crime-investigation-charge-trial don't happen in 60 minutes.

What I posted yesterday evening to those of you degrading SC law is exactly what happened:

"Folks, calm down. Maybe the reason charges weren't filed immediately was for this very reason. Life or death of the victim. I have no doubt that the outcome will be deserved and forthcoming. It seems some of you believe the authorities are heartless and ignorant."

Not that I'm a genius, but it took me longer to type than to think of the answer. Any of you questioning this could have called the appropriate SC law enforcement agency of DA office and asked the question. It wasn't a secret. Johnson probably could have told you that.

Instead, numerous people had to keep trashing SC law enforcement as backward and insensitive. This instant gratification thing is going to far.

Thanks Clemson Engr in GA. You summed it up as I did last night.

Plumone
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Plumone 02/09/11 - 01:09 pm
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This was a very tragic event

This was a very tragic event and will forever change the lives of all the families envolved. I have no oponion on the issue, just facts. I live in this area and have seen both auto and cyclist guilty of not following the rules for safe travel. Yes the bicycle is the smaller of the two but there are laws for the safe conduct when riding on highways. I have sat on my front porch and observed 100 cyclist riding 3 and 4 side by side passing, racing and not paying attention to traffic; large tractor trailer trucks comming up from behind, to the point where the truck had to lock up the brakes to keep form hurting a lot of people. I have also seen motorist acting in an unsafe manner when approching cyclist.

no stones to throw. if you ride a bike on piblic highways just ask your self this question? no mater who is at fault, ask your self who will be hurt or killed when a collision occurs?

anotheroneridesthebus
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anotheroneridesthebus 02/09/11 - 01:10 pm
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I am not saying that Johnson

I am not saying that Johnson is not entirely responsible for the death of the bicyclist, but bicyclists need to take responsibility for their own endangerment. Regardless of fault, you are taking a risk riding on a public street. Even with every driver on the road driving as safe as possible, there are still countless things that could go wrong and cause your death. Tires could blow out, someone could have a seizure and run you over, etc. It's true you deserve the right to ride on public streets. Does your family deserve the right to bury you in an early grave and live the rest of their lives struggling because a loved one isn't there to provide emotional and financial support any longer? I think everyone here needs to grow up and realize that nobody can control what happens to them, they can only minimize the risk. If you want to ride your bike, ride it on a public trail, and go home to your family at night. I have been riding motorcycles on the street since I was 16, and I know that every time I go out on one I have the chance of not coming home. I have to be aware of my surroundings and look out for my well being, I sure as hell don't rely on others for my own safety. I, on the other hand, do not have a family to come home to, so that is my risk and only my risk. To say that it's just as easy to be killed in an auto accident driving to work is also being ignorant. Driving to work is something that you must do and the benefits outweigh the risk. There are no inherent benefits besides your own personal satisfaction and selfishness to your family by riding a bicycle on a street with cars driving fast enough to be killed instantly if hit.

hdrider
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hdrider 02/09/11 - 01:32 pm
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I'm posting this from Belgium

I'm posting this from Belgium right now: Over here there along almost ALL highways and city streets is a 1 meter wide lane on the shoulder of all roads reserved for bicycles and small scooters. This is what's needed in the U.S. It would lower the risk level for bicyclists and also promote riding a bike to work, which would take another small bite towards decreasing our oil dependence. As it is, the thought of riding the roads in the U.S. is plain insane. Even the people here would most likely object to the idea of riding those roads. I also feel we shouldn't jail people for having an ACCIDENT. I T-boned someone once and was found at fault when I know I clearly wasn't. Everyone lived, but this is what I don't understand. How can I go away free for that, but had someone been killed I would've been locked away for the EXACT action? I will also re-up my comment earlier: Where is the outcry every time a car pulls across the path of a motorcyclist killing them? All you ever hear is, "I never saw him." Lastly, it puts my freedom at jeopardy when others engage in a high risk sport in which a small lapse in judgment can cost you your life and me my freedom.

carcraft
27805
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carcraft 02/09/11 - 01:32 pm
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I walk my dog on Walton way

I walk my dog on Walton way where there are no sidewalks and even when I am not on the Road I get "buzzed". Now if I get "buzzed" walking what excuse do you offer these morons behind the wheel of the cars? The drivers swerve in toward me and then back out into the middle of the road! Don't make excuses for ignorance and arrogance!

purty_tex
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purty_tex 02/09/11 - 01:33 pm
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Armyfriend stated it so well,

Armyfriend stated it so well, "Praying for all families involved (Burke, Burlingame, and Johnson)". So many are quick to point fingers and call Mr. Johnson a murderer and claim he ran the bikers down on purpose; but what no one seems to mention is that he (Mr. Johnson) stopped to render aid to the injured. Had Mr. Johnson cold heartedly and maliciously run down those who were hit, would he have stopped and helped? Wouldn't he have run off like so many others do when they've hit someone?

OF COURSE he feels badly, I know Mr. Johnson and he would never intentionally hurt or kill anyone. For those of you who only know OF him or only knew the doctor, I feel your pain because I too have lost a dear friend (only she was killed by a drunk driver who attempted to run off); but you're only seeing one side of the story. For the bikers who claim they heard Mr. Johnson revve his engine - how do you know it was him? Were you watching him? Were you pedaling forward but looking backward? You THINK you know but you don't; you just assume.

To you who knew Dr. Burke, you feel he was the better than Mr. Johnson, and that's your opinion. There are those of us who know Mr. Johnson and feel otherwise. Each person is important in his/her own way and to his/her own people. Just because someone is of a certain profession doesn't make them any more/less than someone else. A doctor, for example, is no more important than a teacher or a street sweeper. I'm so very sorry for Dr. Burke's family and friends' loss, but I am equally sorry for the pain and suffering Mr. Johnson's family and friends are going through too. True, Mr. Johnson is still alive and breathing, but for all practical purposes, his family will no longer have him around either. They don't deserve that anymore than Dr. Burke's family deserves it.

For you pious people pedaling and pushing hatred and vermin into an already hurtful situation, hope that you never make a horrible mistake or that you never cause hurt or harm to anyone. Hope that the hatred and ignorance you display in words toward a man you don't even know never is displayed through your life. You are hurt, you are angry, and you feel vindicated; but instead of letting animosity take control of you, take control of yourself and pray for healing. Pray for peace and strength for Dr. Burke's family and yes, for Mr. Johnson's family. Neither side should have to be in this situation but they are. Prayer for them is all that will help now and pray that some good comes of this for our community and CSRA.

baseballmom3
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baseballmom3 02/09/11 - 01:51 pm
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What is equally sadder than

What is equally sadder than the death of the rider is the hatred of the post I have seen today. We wonder why this world is going to hell in a hand basket. Read all of the post from people who know nothing about the road or the driver. I do, I live over there and know this family as well. While Our hearts do go out to the family as does Mr. Johnson's family who have greived for this family. That road is nothing but dangerous. I wish everyone would please take a ride over there and ride from one end to the other. They also come down Pine Log Road as well and there are no margins for cyclists to get on and both roads are full of dangerous curves. Yes where they were hit was probably the only straight part of the road but still was not a place for a cyclist. I surely would never have let my loved ones ride that road. Further more who are we to judge a man and assume his guilt or sentence. I would bet the lives of my life and that of my children that Mr. Johnson committed nothing more than a horrible accident and no intention was ever there to hurt anyone. He was an EMT for a period of time. He saved lives not took them. He is a Christian man. He will have to pay for his mistake, but you know God hears all of the venom being spewed on this site and I can assure you he is not looking favorably on any of you hypocrit posters either. How can you look in the mirror and if you even pray expect God to hear your prayers and forgive you when you tear another man down for something you know nothing about? I have prayed for both families. God help you that you never experience the pain both or either of these families have gone through. Maybe they heard the engine rev up because I have dropped things before and reached to pick them up and my foot automatically pressed on the gas just from the movement of my body. I hope you all look in the mirror tonight and ask God for forgiveness and pray for both of these families because they both need it and you most certainly need forgiveness if you have this much hate in your hearts.

the_source
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the_source 02/09/11 - 03:41 pm
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purty_tex said "So many are

purty_tex said "So many are quick to point fingers and call Mr. Johnson a murderer and claim he ran the bikers down on purpose; but what no one seems to mention is that he (Mr. Johnson) stopped to render aid to the injured."

baseballmom3 said "He is a Christian man."

Witnesses will testify that Johnson was defiant and tried to leave the accident scene. Think about it. Clear day. Impact in the center of his hood and windshield (I'm sure there is plenty of evidence for this considering how hard he hit Dr. Burke), not along the side. Driving 50 mph+ in a 35 mph zone (as witnessed by the driver behind him). Had about 36 seconds over about 1/2 mile to avoid hitting these bicyclists, not a mere fraction of a second like some of you think. You do the math.

As for Johnson being a "Christian man", I know church preachers who steal for a living. I was ripped off by a church minister for over $4000 myself. I don't think "Christian" really has a lot to do with how people really are. There is a saying: Behavior never lies.

CDLfireEMSsbicyclist
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CDLfireEMSsbicyclist 02/09/11 - 03:58 pm
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Every "cyclist killed by

Every "cyclist killed by motorist" on-line article in the USA has the exact same emotional responses under "comments", and that is what is so disgusting.

Folks, it is really simple. Do not make it more complicated. The law is clear. Learn it. Follow it. Enforce it. Ignorance is curable.

Limited access highways prohibit certain types of vehicles. When driving on a limited access highway, a vehicle operator can expect only same-direction traffic with no lane-sharing and no bicyclists, pedestrians, horse carts, motor scooters, wheelchairs. On all other public roads, those vehicle and user types that are prohibited from limited access roads have inherent rights equal -absolutely equal - to any and all other users. There are additional responsibilities that have been assigned, under statutes, to certain classes of vehicle operators. These additional responsibilities do not create a hierarchy of "rights". All road users need to understand what these specific responsibilities are.

"Highway driving" ends at the highway off-ramp. Bicyclists, as operators of vehicles upon roads, are responsible for proper lane positioning in order to safely get where they are going, and this proper positioning is not always to the extreme right. Bicyclists are responsible to not "impede" traffic, understanding that bicyclists need (and safety priority) is to ride in a manner that makes them visible and predictable to overtaking vehicles. The responsibility of overtaking vehicles is VERY clear - to keep VERY CLEAR.

I no longer ride my bicycle as a part of a large group because large groups of bicyclists can create issues that put bicyclists in a gray area in the law, and often create a degree of danger. I prefer to break large groups of cyclists into smaller groups that are visible to overtaking vehicles but safer for them to pass. However, there is no law against "rush hour" (many vehicles using the road at the same time), and bicycles are vehicles, but with specified additional responsibilities for their operators.

Bicyclists often do not understand how to ride in a manner that is both according to our statutes and safe for them, and duly courteous toward other road users. Motorists often do not understand how bicyclists should legally and safely ride. This is because our driver's education and our licensing process and our law enforcement training and our courts ALL fail society by being inadequate in this regard.

Even if the large group of bicyclists here was doing something wrong (and I was not there so I do not know), unless they were invisible to the driver, there is no acceptable reason whatsoever that can justify crashing into them.

Walking around with a loaded firearm may be legal, but we expect people who carry to exercise care at all times, especially when other people are within range. We don't accept it as an "act of God" when a firearm is discharged and kills somebody. There is a level of responsibility that is borne by the carrier.

I'm terribly saddened by this incident for many reasons already stated by others, but it is just ridiculous that we are arguing about things that are clearly defined in our laws and yet largely misunderstood by bicyclists and motorists. What is our excuse for not knowing where bicyclists belong, and - beyond accepting every road user's equal rights to use public roads - what our specific additional responsibilities are?

This tragedy will not be completely in vain if good people come forth and dedicate themselves to education to stop these types of incidents from claiming more lives. I hope this will be the case. There are way too many of these articles and responses. It is time to learn the things we should already know.

stairway2nowhere
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stairway2nowhere 02/09/11 - 04:03 pm
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once again since the last

once again since the last comment was deleted out of the hundred or so neighborhoods THE ONLY PLACE YOU CAN WALK YOUR DOG IS DOWN WALTON WAY.....seriously

happychimer
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 04:41 pm
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InChrist cases have been

InChrist cases have been posted on here where charges were upgraded. I did not call anyone a liar, but I know that the case of a baby injured by its father died and the charges were upgraded after the baby died.

happychimer
19347
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 04:57 pm
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So charges can be upgraded.

So charges can be upgraded.

corgimom
36419
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corgimom 02/09/11 - 04:48 pm
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What is truly ridiculous is

What is truly ridiculous is the idea that "now drivers will be educated".

All of us were children once. And as children riding bikes, our parents told us "watch for cars". That's when we were educated as to what cars can do to bike riders, and nothing has changed from that.

People already know before they ever get their driver's license that if they hit a bicyclist, the bike rider will probably be seriously hurt or killed.

And so do the bike riders.

ACCIDENTS can happen to anyone, whether they are a driver or a rider.

And the equally ridiculous notion that "bike lanes are safe"- no they aren't. They are just as dangerous. Bike lanes are NOT the answer. They give bike riders AND drivers a false sense of safety. A white line on a road NEVER stopped a car or a bicycle, only a driver or a rider can control their car/bike.

passingthrough
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passingthrough 02/09/11 - 04:49 pm
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I would like to see Mr.
Unpublished

I would like to see Mr. Johnson's criminal history. It would probably clear this picture up a bit, but I think the insight of the other riders on that fateful day should be given the greatest respect with regards as to Mr. Johnson's intent.

Iamacyclist
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Iamacyclist 02/09/11 - 05:36 pm
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First and foremost, my heart,

First and foremost, my heart, thoughts and prayers go out to Dr. Burke, his wife, daughter and their family and friends and his cycling friends. Such a tragic loss to not only them, but to our community and nation.

In response to some of those posts above:

There is a big difference between accepting the inherent risk of cycling the rural roads while obeying the traffic laws and having to put up with bad drivers or malicious motorists.

The road on which Dr. Burke was tragically struck is one of the safest roads in area. From reading the anti-biker posts, it appears that it is only those people that live on Beech Island Blvd that think it is so dangerous. I don't care if you live on that road and are used to driving faster; the group rides only use that section of the Beech Island on Friday and sometimes Saturday mornings.

I was not on the October 1 ride when Matt got struck; but I know most of the cyclists that were. From all accounts, these experienced riders told me that this was not just an accident or a mistake. In addition, at a minimum, is going 50 mph plus in a 35 mph an accident?

I have cycled over the past 10 years many miles training for various endurance races and events. I, as well as many experienced cyclists, can instinctively tell when a motorist does something intentionally to harrass and intimidate; versus a motorist who just makes a mistake.

When I arrived at the Saturday morning group ride at the local bike shop on October 2, I was unaware of the tragedy from the night before. One cyclist friend told me that there had been a terrible accident on Beech Island Blvd last night and that Dr. Burke was critically injured.

My first response was: "I bet I know exactly where this incident took place"; and I was correct. It is at the beginning of what I feel is the safest, straightest, and open rural roads in all of the CSRA; the exact point where I have been buzzed, harrassed and/or maliciously followed by local residents in their vehicles for the entire stretch down to Pine Log.

The reason is that it is the first point on this open rural road in which a motorist can easily begin to pass a slower cyclist going toward Pine Log; but motorists get irrate because they have to wait just a few seconds to begin to pass.

I find it very odd that a man, who lives on this very road and knows that the group ride cycles that road every Friday night for over 20 years, struck 5 cyclists without breaking at the very same point that I have been maliciously buzzed numerous times.

From those at the scene, Mr. Johnson was not very courteous. I was running today with a woman cyclist who was one of those hit and she stated Mr. Johnson did not even shed one tear; he was quite the opposite. She even told me that per her calculations, at 50mph, the dude had to be distracted during that half mile before for over 30 seconds; hard to imagine even staying on the road that long without looking.

The reason that half mile is significant is because there is NO WAY at least one of the 15 cyclist would not have been seen during that straight flat stretch in broad daylight.

I do feel for Mr. Johnson, but how many stories did he come up with before he settled on the being distracted by bending over to pick something up (and for over 30 seconds). Only Mr. Johnson will probably know the truth and have to live with it.

I just hope that in the future both motorists and cyclists will learn from this tragic loss. All must obey the rules of the road, accept the inherent risks associated with these laws, and avoid road rage. Yes, cyclists can be as ugly at times as motorists; we all need to show some patience.

Enough said.
AB

InChristLove
22481
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InChristLove 02/09/11 - 06:20 pm
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HappyChimer, I do not doubt

HappyChimer, I do not doubt that in some cases charges could be upgraded but the DA stated why Mr. Johnson wasn't charged to prevent any change of double jeopardy and also several posted commented concerning the double jeopardy. After that fact, you posted your comment which would have been fine if it had been posted as an opinion and not appear as FACT,

"Charges could have been brought against Johnson earlier, and then been upgraded when Dr. Burke died. There would have been no double jeopardy.

Then it would not have appeared to contradict what the DA had said (that there was a possiblity of double jeopardy) and make it appear you think you know better than the DA. This is the only reason I mentioned this.

happychimer
19347
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 06:32 pm
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InChrist I did speak facts.

InChrist I did speak facts.

happychimer
19347
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 06:34 pm
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from the link I posted...A

from the link I posted...A 2-month-old girl died at Medical College of Georgia Hospital early Friday morning from severe brain trauma from shaking or mishandling, Richmond County sheriff's Sgt. Blaise Dresser said.Zion Harris was taken to the hospital Wednesday with bruising to the face and body, and severe brain trauma. She was pronounced dead at 2:06 a.m., according to the sheriff's office.The father, Jacques Butler, 20, of the 1100 block of Nellieville Drive, was charged Thursday with first- degree cruelty to children.A charge of murder was added Friday, Dresser said. Zion's death is Richmond County's third homicide of the year.

happychimer
19347
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 06:36 pm
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InChrist, Johnson could had

InChrist, Johnson could had charges, and then when Dr. Burke died, more charges added. If the DA said it couldn't, then he needs to go back to school.

createyourfuture
68
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createyourfuture 02/09/11 - 06:59 pm
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Here are the facts: Mr

Here are the facts:
Mr Johnson was acting in an unusual fashion and had to be restrained by the uninjured cyclists or he would have left the scene.
Despite his behavior problems, no drug or alcohol screen was done.
Despite his acts, no single act of remorse has come from Mr. Jackson.
No investigation of the investigating officers as to why drug and alcohol testing was not performed in a man who was behaving peculiarly (how do you spell whitewash?)
No charges have been filed regarding the other injured cyclists.
Matthew Burke is with God, RIP
Matthew's children will never know their father.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN:
Daniel Johnson will cop a plea on the charge.
Matthew Burke's family will own every bit of property that Daniel Johnson owns after the civil suit is finished. His auto insurance will not be nearly enough.

censorshipiswrong
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censorshipiswrong 02/09/11 - 07:00 pm
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cyclist need to take

cyclist need to take responsibility for their own endangerment....that's good.

So when someone runs the light and kills your spouse, you simply shrug your shoulders and say "she knew the risk, oh well"?
We understand there is danger, we are not total idiots.
But there would be a lot less if people would just obey a majority of the laws and kept their eyes on the road a little more. A cyclist swerving into the road to avoid a pothole or tree limb is in danger, all because no one has the decency to keep a good distance. Passing a bicycle is no different than passing a car, except for the steel roll care supplied by the car. If you can move into the other lane to pass a car, why not for a bike or motorcycle?

InChristLove
22481
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InChristLove 02/09/11 - 08:00 pm
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"InChrist, Johnson could had

"InChrist, Johnson could had charges, and then when Dr. Burke died, more charges added. If the DA said it couldn't, then he needs to go back to school." posted by happychimer

LOL, and please tell us happy what kind of education you have that you would think you are so much smarter than the DA.

In the case of the 2 month old child who died, charges were ADDED not upgraded. Big difference.

I believe I'll trust the DA's reasoning for the delay instead of your opinion.

happychimer
19347
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 08:31 pm
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InChrist why do you feel the

InChrist why do you feel the need to TRY to pick my posts apart? Get this. I don't care what you think of my comments. So go for it!

InChristLove
22481
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InChristLove 02/09/11 - 08:31 pm
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Happy, I am not trying to

Happy, I am not trying to pick apart your comments. I'm saying what you post is wrong. Get it.

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.

Now tell me again how the DA needs to go back to school.

happychimer
19347
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 08:32 pm
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I stand by what I said. End

I stand by what I said. End of conversation.

InChristLove
22481
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InChristLove 02/09/11 - 08:33 pm
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I'm glad you don't care what

I'm glad you don't care what I think of your post, but if you post something that is inaccurate then you are going to be called on it. Not picking apart, just setting the record straight.

happychimer
19347
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happychimer 02/09/11 - 08:43 pm
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someone told you to shutup? I

someone told you to shutup? I missed that one. Good night

InChristLove
22481
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InChristLove 02/09/11 - 08:46 pm
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End of conversation in my

End of conversation in my view means shut up....you sure do miss a lot. Good Night happy.

Clemson Engr in GA
0
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Clemson Engr in GA 02/09/11 - 11:30 pm
0
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Suppose charges for

Suppose charges for wreckless
endanderment were brought immediately,
and the doctor lived 2 1/2 years. Due to a
guarantee of a speedy trial, the trial would
be adjudicated and complete - regardless of
the ruling, when the DR. Died the state
could not then file for negligent homicide
because of double jeopardy.

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