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Juror Explains Emotional Toll of Convicting Defendant

SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- Thursday, A Greene County jury found 21-year-old Matthew Hogue guilty of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, and second-degree assault for the 2013 crash on Farm Road 132, near Highway 125.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo.-- "An emotional, difficult decision."  That's how a juror described the process of convicting a man who crashed a car that killed a passenger.

Thursday, A Greene County jury found 21-year-old Matthew Hogue guilty of first-degree involuntary manslaughter, and second-degree assault for the 2013 crash on Farm Road 132, near Highway 125.

The crash killed 29-year-old Kendi Highland, and paralyzed 21-year-old Joseph Sims.

The prosecution said Hogue was "hilltopping", or speeding over hilly roads for a roller coaster effect.

Sergeant Jason Pace of the Missouri State Highway Patrol explained the dangers of hilltopping.  "As you crest the hill at a certain rate of speed, you are actually losing traction of the roadway.  And not only that, you are losing your ability to steer, and that's what makes this so dangerous-- because often times when we see these types of crashes, the vehicle has traveled off the road, or even across the center line, striking somebody else head on and is often times very, very tragic," Pace said.

Juror Susan Smith said, "There was a great deal of sympathy for all the people involved and their families."

Defense Attorney Gary Collins agreed.  "I don't know that anyone's life involved in this case is ever going to be the same," Collins said.

An accident reconstructionist officer estimated Hogue was traveling 73 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone. 

"Given the speed and conditions, the question is, was this reckless behavior?  And yes, it was," Smith said.

Senior Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Philip Fuhrman said, "There are definitely a lot of emotions at stake in a trial like this."

"You never know when the jury goes out, what's going to happen," Collins said.

Juror Susan Smith hopes she'll never have to make a decision like that again.

"There's no question his (Hogue's) life has been damaged, as well as the lives of the other passengers.  It wasn't an easy thing to do," Smith said. 

Hogue's sentencing is scheduled for October 23.

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