From Postandcourier.com, December 21, 2022, by Ema Rose Schumer (Read full article here)
MYRTLE BEACH — The criminal case against a former South Carolina Highway Patrol trooper accused of assaulting a driver during a traffic stop was dismissed earlier this month after a judge found a second attempt to bring him to trial amounted to double jeopardy, according to the defendant’s attorney.
David Andrew Eck was arrested in February 2020 on allegations the trooper used excessive force to detain a drunk driver by striking the man in the head and rubbing his face into the ground, according to arrest warrants. Eck was off duty during the incident, which occurred May 5, 2019, in Myrtle Beach, and was leaving a Sunday church service.
The S.C. Highway Patrol terminated Eck in February 2020 for improper conduct, a spokesman previously said. The Myrtle Beach man spent two decades working at the agency and had reached the rank of master trooper at the time of the traffic stop.
Eck’s attorney, Joseph Cannarella of the Charleston-based Savage Law Firm, announced the case’s resolution in a press release last week.
The criminal case against Eck was initially tried in June in Horry County’s magistrate court and resulted in a mistrial. The morning of the retrial, which was slated to begin Dec. 15, Cannarella successfully argued for the case’s dismissal, stating a magistrate had erred in declaring the mistrial.
The 15th Circuit Solicitor’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Eck is also a defendant in a civil suit filed by the alleged victim that is pending in federal court. The mistrial in June stemmed from Cannarella’s mention of that civil suit while cross-examining the alleged victim.
The state objected to the defense attorney’s use of the pending civil suit to impeach the witness, arguing it was irrelevant and prejudiced the jury, according to Cannarella.
Cannarella called his decision to cite the civil suit at trial “a common impeachment mechanism.”
“That is evidence of potentially a motive to misrepresent because a good outcome in the criminal case furthers his civil lawsuit,” the defense attorney said.
The magistrate presiding over the June trial agreed with the state and declared a mistrial. But another magistrate presiding over the re-trial found that his colleague legally erred by granting the mistrial, Cannarella said. The second magistrate then dismissed the case against Eck.
Eck is shielded from further prosecution due to the Fifth Amendment’s double jeopardy clause, which prevents a defendant from being prosecuted twice for the same crime.