The man with a lengthy criminal history who is now facing charges for the death of a father on a golf cart is set to stand trial next week.
The Georgia State Patrol arrested Donny Lee Johnson in 2020 for the October 2019 death of James “Tommy” Carter. Carter and his wife were in their Bloomingdale neighborhood on a golf cart on September 17, 2019 when Johnson struck the cart from behind. Johnson was in a pick up truck at the time. SCRT Investigators with the Georgia State Patrol alleged Johnson was under the influence at the time of the crash.
Carter’s wife was seriously injured and Tommy Carter, though transported to the hospital for care, succumbed to his injuries in the weeks that followed.
Subsequently, Johnson was indicted on three counts of Vehicular Homicide (First Degree), Driving Under the Influence, Driving Under the Influence (Less Safe), Reckless Driving, Driving While License Suspended, and Following Too Closely.
After three years of pending charges, Johnson will stand trial in Effingham County Superior Court next week before a jury of his peers and Judge Michael Muldrew. Johnson previously requested a bench trial, but withdrew that request in August 2022.
Lengthy Criminal Driving History
A review of Johnson’s arrest history in Effingham and Chatham counties shows that Johnson was in and out of the court system for twenty years. Despite guilty pleas for felony offenses, Johnson routinely received probated sentences without prison time – including for a Robbery conviction in Chatham County.
At the time of the crash which killed Tommy Carter, Johnson had two pending DUI cases in Effingham County and two pending DUI cases in Chatham County.
Police across jurisdictions also charged Johnson with upwards of five different offenses of driving while on a suspended or revoked license. In Georgia, a person convicted of that offense three times, is charged with a felony for any subsequent offenses. In Effingham County, however, officials in state court routinely reduced the charge to the lesser offense of Driving Without a License.
Prosecutors nevertheless plan to use that information against Johnson. Assistant District Attorneys filed motions to introduce evidence from those similar transactions against Johnson in trial next week. Specifically, prosecutors intend to bring up DUI charges from 2009, 2019, and 2020 as well as ‘acts’ outlined in various Effingham County Sheriff’s Office reports.
If convicted, Johnson will face a sentence of up to 15 years for the felony Homicide by Vehicle, plus one additional year for each of the misdemeanor offenses. Johnson would also receive ‘credit for time served’ in the Effingham County jail awaiting court proceedings.
Since his arrest in Effingham County in 2020, Johnson has remained behind bars without bond. While defense attorneys have three times asked a judge to consider bond, it has been denied each time.
Johnson also faces a civil suit for the death of Carter.