Jury finds Tracy Gordon guilty of reckless homicide, not guilty of BUI in 2019 Lake Murray boat crash

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Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 2:33 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - After deliberating for nearly nine hours, jurors have found Tracy Gordon guilty of reckless homicide by operation of a boat and not guilty of two counts of felony boating under the influence in a 2019 crash on Lake Murray.

According to officials with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Gordon was driving a cigarette boat on September 21, 2019, when he hit the Kiser family’s pontoon boat.

68-year-old Stanley “Stan” Kiser died in a crash. His wife, Shawn Kiser, lost a leg, and his daughter, Morgan Kiser, was injured.

Prosecutors asserted that Gordon was “materially and appreciably” impaired on that September night nearly exactly four years ago.

State prosecutors emphasized that they do not have to prove Gordon was drunk, simply that he was inebriated enough that he should not have been operating the boat.

The defense argued that Gordon was not driving recklessly, and this was all just a horrible accident.

Fifth Circuit Deputy Solicitor Dan Goldberg said in his closing argument that Gordon “must be held responsible” for his actions that night.

“This case is not about light beer versus full flight of beer,” he said. “It is not about the shading on a lightbulb. It is not about whether the gate on the pontoon was open. And it’s certainly not about the morality of drinking, that’s not what we’re all here to talk about. This case is about holding him responsible for recklessly operating his boat on September 21, 2019, while he was under the influence of alcohol and then caused the death of Stan Kiser and the great bodily injury to Shawn Kiser.”

He described how the defendant failed multiple field sobriety tests and refused to take a breath and blood test immediately following the crash, which the stats argued is evidence of his guilt.

At one point, Goldberg physically laid out for jurors at least eight separate beers that Gordon admitted to drinking while out on the water that day.

“Did Tracy Gordon’s consumption of eight, nine, ten beers, however many it was, did that impair his ability to operate that boat to the point that he should not have been driving?” he said.

Veteran defense attorney Jack Swerling, in an impassioned closing argument, said the state did not meet its burden to prove Gordon’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

He also suggested that the state was appealing to jurors’ sympathies with graphic testimony that detailed the extent of the victim’s injuries.

Last Friday, Dr. Amy Durso, the forensic pathologist who performed Stan’s autopsy, testified that she had never seen injuries “quite as bad as this.”

“Why did they have to put up Dr. Durso to go ahead and describe the awful nature of these injuries?” Swerling said. “It’s not relevant, it’s not pertinent and it wasn’t required. Why would they have to put up the doctor who treated Mrs. Kiser about the amputation of her leg? That was not required. It was only done for one purpose: to create horror, passion, sympathy, sadness, and emotion so that you will decide this case based on that rather than the facts and evidence in the case.”

Gordon took the stand in his own defense and asserted that this was an accident.

He testified that he did not see the lights on the Kiser boat before the collision.

Prosecutors contended that he did not see the lights because he was impaired.

“Accidents do happen,” Goldberg said. “But let me be crystal clear: this was not an accident.”

The defense also questioned why the state did not call witnesses like those offered by the defense who testified that Gordon did not appear drunk that night.

Among those witnesses were workers at restaurants on Lake Murray who served Gordon and his wife Angie on September 21.

Gordon’s blood alcohol content level was not allowed to be admitted as evidence.

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