Family of pedestrian struck, killed by attorney want law changed

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News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, June 27, 2013

Thomas Woodruff Jr. (Image: Woodruff Law Offices / Background: MGN Online)
Thomas Woodruff Jr. (Image: Woodruff Law Offices / Background: MGN Online)

AIKEN, S.C. (WRDW) -- Jim McKinney still has flashbacks.

"I was in the office doing some paperwork, and I heard a screech," said the owner of McKinney Tire Service on York Street in Aiken.

That screech was something terrible. It was the collision that's still causing controversy.

On March 30, the Aiken Department of Public Safety says Aiken attorney Tom Woodruff drove onto the sidewalk on York Street and struck three pedestrians. Lukisha N. Thomas was killed. Her baby miraculously survived. Another man, Ray Charles Wooden Jr., was left in critical condition but has recently been released from the hospital.

"I'm not real squeamish, but when I saw both of them laying there, it upset me," said McKinney, who was first on the scene. "I didn't go to bed until about two in the morning. I was shook up about that."

"I could just sit on the porch and still see my sister getting ready to walk down the street and ready to take the kids to the park," said Thomas' sister, Maria Saxon, who says she obviously can't see that anymore.

On Wednesday, Thomas told News 12 that she's still not happy with what the driver was charged with careless driving. She says Woodruff only paid a $155 fine. But the Aiken Department of Public Safety said from the beginning that careless driving is all the law would technically allow.

Now, however, she says the family has a bigger goal of changing South Carolina law that she says is ridiculous.

"We just want people to understand and know that this law is in South Carolina, and we need to get it changed to the point that it is illegal to drive up on a sidewalk and hit somebody and as to further kill somebody," Saxon said.

"I think we need to clear up some things for the better," said South Carolina Rep. Bill Clyburn of Aiken.

Clyburn is on board for a change. He says he has already talked to Saxon and the Aiken Branch NAACP and says he will soon talk to Aiken Public Safety and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division.

"We want to make sure that we bring in all these entities to make sure that things are clarified, and it is done in a manner that will be helpful for everybody," Clyburn said.

Clyburn says he hopes to hold town hall meetings before he drafts a bill that he plans to pre-file in December before the next legislative session.

Previously, the Aiken Department of Public Safety told News 12 that other states, including Georgia, have certain enhancements to the law that are more penalizing if a vehicular fatality results.

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