Finney: No appeal in jet ski case

by | May 23, 2016 9:12 pm

Last Updated: May 28, 2016 at 9:04 am

The chief prosecutor for the 3rd Judicial Circuit said it’s not a matter of wanting to appeal a judge’s decision earlier this month that a Florence man not be tried for his alleged role in the death of a 19-year-old Summerton woman in 2014.
Rather, 3rd Circuit Solicitor Ernest “Chip” Finney III said it’s a matter of legality.
“We checked with the state Attorney General’s Office, and found we have no right to appeal on a judge’s decision in a directed verdict,” he said. “They sent us the casework, and we read it and considered it, and I don’t believe we’re able to file an appeal because the law does not allow a solicitor to do that.
Judge W. Jeffrey Young decided May 13 to grant Justin Walters’ motion for a directed verdict, agreeing with Walters’ attorneys that the state lacked sufficient evidence to present the case to a jury for a decision.
According to the South Carolina Supreme Court, a directed verdict is necessary “when the evidence merely raises a suspicion that the accused is guilty, (with) suspicion implying a belief or opinion as to guilty based upon facts or circumstances which do not amount to proof.”
Walters was charged in fall 2014 with reckless homicide by watercraft or boat. His and Millicent McDonald’s jet skis collided May 19, 2014, in the Taw Caw area of Lake Marion. McDonald suffered severe injuries, and was airlifted from the scene. She died the next day after being on life support in a Columbia hospital.
Assistant Solicitor Chris DuRant argued that Walters was reckless in his operation of the jet ski, and that he created the environment which caused McDonald’s death. Attorney Ceth Land argued that both parties were equally reckless, and noted that both parties had been “making donuts and (whirling) around in the water.”
Finney said settled case law reasons that allowing the overturning of a judge’s granting of a directed verdict would put the defendant in danger of double jeopardy, or being tried for the same crime twice.

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