The killing of Ernest Hoskins: a matter of intent 

In November 2012, Ernest Hoskins was shot and killed by his boss during a business meeting. With the killer now charged with manslaughter, a family's search for justice highlights the often blurry line between recklessness and murder.

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McQuary said he has handled homicide cases all over the state, but it's the ones in which the perpetrator is charged with manslaughter that always elicit the most emotion. He said that race had nothing to do with the charges that were filed, and disputes the idea that Hoskins would have been treated more harshly had the shoe been on the other foot. As for why the arresting charge was first-degree murder, while Reynolds was formally charged with manslaughter, McQuary said: "There's a big difference between probable cause and what someone is actually convicted of by being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt."

McQuary said everything he's looked into has found Ernest Hoskins to be a good young man who was trying to do everything he could for his family. He said he feels for Nikki and Monica Hoskins, and said that he will try to put Reynolds away for as long as he can while assuring that — as a felon — Reynolds will never be able to legally own a firearm again.

But, McQuary said, "I've sworn an oath — and I take it very, very seriously — that my job is to ensure that justice is to be served. That doesn't mean I seek the highest penalty on every case I have. ... It's my job to look at the facts of the case and not let emotion play any role in my decision on what to charge."

The longest highway

Nikki and Monica Hoskins still don't buy McQuary's contention that the shooting was an accident. Ernest eventually got around to telling one or the other of them everything that happened to him during his day, they said, and he never told either of them about reckless gunplay at Chris Reynolds' house, much less Reynolds using a handgun to point or gesture during previous business meetings.

"I'm his wife," Nikki said. "I'm his best friend. He tells me everything whether I want him to or not. How come I never knew that? I knew everything they talked about, but I never knew they played with guns? That makes no sense." Monica Hoskins called the contention that her son would allow a gun to be pointed in his face on a regular basis "baloney." She said that when she talked to Brian Washington, he never mentioned recklessness with firearms at Reynolds' house, either.

Until Reynolds' trial, which is scheduled for June 5 and 6, they are struggling on. They've started a petition drive online to try and get more attention for the case, and have a Facebook page called "Justice for Ernest Hoskins Jr."

Both Nikki and Monica said they didn't want to see the case from a race perspective, but as the months dragged on without formal charges they began to suspect it. Nikki said she became sure of it when Reynolds was charged with manslaughter. They're represented by the prominent Florida civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, who also represents the parents of Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager shot by a neighborhood watch captain in Feb. 2012 Since Reynolds was charged, they haven't spoken with McQuary.

Monica Hoskins said the court dates have been hard. "When I drive that highway to go to Lonoke County," she said, "I shake all the way. I think: 'My son traveled this highway.' "

Nikki Hoskins said she hasn't had a full night's sleep since Nov. 9. Her daughter, who is 6, suffers from nightmares.

"She wakes up and says: 'Is he going to come home tonight?' " Hoskins said. "She understands what's going on, but she doesn't understand. She expects him. She thinks it's only temporary."


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