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Davenport man acquitted of vehicular homicide, convicted of leaving scene of accident in hit-and-run case

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A Davenport man was found not guilty of homicide by vehicle due to reckless driving, by a judge Tuesday, but was found guilty of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

Mark Blackwood, 64, was accused of hitting and killing Eric L. Johnson, 60, of Rock Island, on Jan. 18. Johnson was dragged under Blackwood's car for about 2,050 feet after the crash, from the 1900 block of North Washington Street, Davenport to the 2600 block of North Fillmore Lane.

Blackwood waived his right to a jury trial on Nov. 10. Last week he had a three-day long trial in front of Judge Mark R. Fowler, who made the final decision after reviewing the arguments and the evidence.

Blackwood testified during the trial that when he was driving home the night of the crash, he felt his car hit something, or get hit by something, and he stopped to see what it was. He said he didn't see anything and continued driving home. 

The charge of homicide by vehicle due to reckless driving requires that the State prove the defendant acted recklessly, and that recklessness caused the victim's death. Assistant State's Attorney Amy DeVine stated during the trial that there was no recklessness involved in the initial crash, since Johnson had been walking in the middle of the road and Blackwood wasn't speeding. DeVine claimed Blackwood had acted with recklessness after the crash, by continuing to drive with Johnson under his car, which contributed to Johnson's death.

Fowler said the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Blackwood hit Johnson and knew he hit Johnson, but the State didn't prove Blackwood knew Johnson was under his car when he continued driving. DeVine argued in the trial that Blackwood should have looked under his car after the crash, but Fowler said not looking under his car doesn't meet the qualification for recklessness, but is merely negligence.

Fowler did find Blackwood guilty of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. Fowler said Blackwood's testimony that he didn't know he had hit a person was difficult to believe, based on evidence that Johnson had likely been carried on the hood of Blackwood's car for at least three seconds.

Even if Blackwood hadn't known he hit a person initially, Fowler said Blackwood was legally required to report to law enforcement as soon as he suspected he may have been involved in the crash. Blackwood testified in the trial that the morning after the crash he saw news of a hit-and-run and suspected he might have been involved. Blackwood did not reach out to police immediately, but first called a lawyer.

"This was indeed a horrible, horrible tragedy," Fowler said.

Blackwood is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 25 at 10 a.m. He faces up to 5 years in prison for the charge of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

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