Trial for Buchanan man in fatal OWI crash set for August

Published 12:15 pm Friday, June 30, 2023

NILES — A Buchanan resident accused of driving drunk and killing a Berrien County Road Department worker last summer is set to go to trial in late August in Berrien County Trial Court at the Niles courthouse.

A hearing held Thursday in the case against Taylor Ryan Johnson, 34, resulted in Berrien County Trial Judge Jennifer Smith ruling on what she won’t allow to be brought up at trial. Johnson is charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing death which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Johnson will next be in court Aug. 9 for a status conference with the trial itself set to start Aug. 29.

The incident occurred July 20, 2022 on Red Bud Trail near Glendora Road in Oronoko Township. Road Department worker William “Mack” Isom had been working on cutting up a fallen tree which was in the roadway across Red Bud Trail. Isom had worked for the road department for over two decades.

He was allegedly hit and killed by a southbound vehicle driven at a high rate of speed by Johnson. The Michigan State Police conducted an accident reconstruction of the incident. Johnson sustained minor injuries and was later arrested for operating while intoxicated causing death. His blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

Thursday, Judge Smith ruled that Johnson won’t be able to argue that Isom was grossly negligent in his actions when he was clearing a tree from a roadway last July. Johnson’s attorney, Trevor Maveal, had been arguing that claim when the hearing was started in early May.