Friday, February 08, 2013

TOP STORY >> Special prosecutor considers charges

Leader staff writer

Criminal charges could be filed by March 4 against the Ward man who admits to shooting and killing his employee, Ernest Hoskins Jr., at his home on Nov. 9.

Jack McQuary, the special prosecutor appointed at the end of January, said he got the case file this week and has not reviewed it yet. He also needs to interview the witnesses and talk to the victim’s wife, he said.

But McQuary said he foresees no deterrent to deciding if charges should be filed by the March 4 hearing date, which was set on Monday, when he told the court he would take the case.

Lonoke County Prosecutor Chuck Graham said in late November that he expected to file charges of first-degree murder and aggravated assault charges against Christopher Reynolds, 34, for killing Hoskins, 21, of North Little Rock.

But by that time, Hoskins’ family had hired an attorney who was asking what the holdup was in arresting Reynolds and questioning whether the delay was because Hoskins was black and Reynolds is white.

Reynolds, who is represented by attorney Hubert Alexander of Jacksonville, has been free on a $100,000 bond since he was arrested on Nov. 24.

Graham said this week that in asking for a special prosecutor, he considered the speculation surrounding the case such as why Reynolds was detained but not arrested on the day of the shooting.

But race, Graham has maintained from the beginning, is never something he considers when prosecuting cases.

“I don’t care what color people are. We just do our job,” Graham said after Reynolds was arrested following an investigation by the State Police. “I didn’t know the victim was black until the NAACP called me.”

Graham said he asked for a special prosecutor in the case because it was clear that Hoskins family wasn’t comfortable with him, and he didn’t want to make their loss any harder.

“They’ve lost a family member,” he said. “I can’t imagine how hard that must be.”

Requests for special prosecutors go to the state Office of the Prosecutor Coordinator. Sometimes cases are assigned to elected prosecutors from other judicial districts. But the Reynolds case was given to McQuary, the only special prosecutor who works directly for the state Office of the Prosecutor Coordinator.

Graham said he had no preferences.

“At least it won’t be someone here in Lonoke County,” he said.

Reynolds admitted to killing Hoskins. But he said he was attempting to decock the .44-magnum pistol he had been holding on Hoskins when the gun discharged and shot him in the head.

During the two weeks between the shooting and Reynolds’ arrest, the Hoskins family retained Ben Crump, the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin, the black teenager who was shot to death 13 months ago by George Zimmerman as he walked through a multi-ethnic gated community in Sanford, Fla.

Crump’s law firm specializes in wrongful death, malpractice, personal injury and civil rights cases.

The Hoskins’ case has received much media attention since Crump was hired.

Special Agent David R. Moss with the Arkansas State Police interviewed Reynolds at Ward Police Department the evening Hoskins was killed and wrote this statement that Reynolds signed according the affidavit for his arrest:

“On Nov. 9, 2012, at approximately 2 p.m., I was conducting a meeting at my house for my business. My business reduces gas mileage on vehicles. Rachel Watson, Brian Washington, Melissa Peoples and Ernest Hoskins were at my house for the meeting. All four are my employees. I was discussing with Ernest why his sales figures for the week were so low. He had lower figures than Melissa and Rachel. Ernest told me that I needed to get off my couch and work as well. We were bantering back and forth. I picked up a Desert Eagle .44 magnum pistol from behind me. I pointed the pistol at Ernest’s head and we were bantering for approximately one minute. I pulled the trigger and the gun did not go off. I then pulled the slide back and a round went into the chamber. I tried to de-cock the hammer on the pistol by pulling the trigger and holding the hammer and it moved forward. The gun then went off and struck Ernest in the face. I put the gun back up and called 911. I have had weapons and firearms training while I was enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.”

McQuary has worked for the Office of the Prosecutor Coordinator for about eight years. He was one of two special prosecutors from the Office of the Prosecutor Coordinator for the 2007 West Memphis case involving a 12-year-old black boy who was killed by a white, West Memphis police officer. A toy gun was found near the boy’s body. The officer said he thought it was real. Criminal charges were not filed against the officer in that case. And in 2011, the boy’s family lost its federal lawsuit for $250 million.