Downing found guilty in 2 pedestrian deaths

Downing found guilty in 2 pedestrian deaths

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by KGW.com Staff

kgw.com

Posted on April 17, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Updated Thursday, Apr 19 at 11:40 AM

SALEM, Ore. -- A jury has found Sophia Downing guilty of two manslaughter counts, assault, reckless endangerment and DUII Wednesday.

Downing drove her SUV into a group of students near Chemeketa Community College in 2010, while she was allegedly high on prescription drugs. Two of the teens died and a third was critically injured.

The judge Tuesday sent the jury back into deliberations, after they thought they had reached a verdict.

However, as the proceedings for the verdict began, Judge Dennis Graves said Tuesday the jury had apparently misunderstood instructions and failed to reach the required 10-person majority on some of the charges. So he sent them back out, to re-deliberate.

The mother of one of the victims told KGW the trial was hard on her family and this new twist has added to their frustrations.

“It’s like a roller coaster,” Victim Brittney Green’s mother Lois Green said. “I was in Lake Oswego when I got the call that the jury came in and I went like wildfire to get down her and first to hear that she’s not guilty of manslaughter one and then to hear it’s a lesser charge, and then hear ‘oops we made a mistake,’ and it tears you up. It’s awful she’s in there laughing and giggling and my daughter’s … I’ll never get to hear her again and she gets to sit up there like this is all a joke.”

During the trial, prosecutors argued that Downing misused drugs and was impaired when she jumped a curb and plowed into the teens. The trial moved faster than expected and was very emotional. Downing broke down in tears several times, as did family members of the victims.

Police said Downing admitted taking Ativan, a prescription drug, before the crash. The defense countered that the amount of drugs in her system were not enough to cause impairment.

Background: Driver on trial for manslaughter

Brittney Green, 18, of Salem, died after the collision, along with 16-year-old Francisco Servantes. Jorge Echeverria, 18, suffered serious injuries but survived.

Downing, who was driving a 1994 Chevy Blazer, stayed on the scene. Her speed was unknown when the vehicle went through a crosswalk and jumped a curb hitting the victims and an electrical junction box.

The trial went to the jury of nine women and five men late Monday morning.

Downing also has a past record.  In 1997, she was charged with attempted murder, solicitation of murder, conspiring to commit murder and assault. After a plea agreement, she was sentenced to ten years in prison and three years probation.

A friend of Downing's told KGW that she has long-battled with mental issues and substance abuse.

KGW Reporters Tim Gordon and Kyle Iboshi contributed to this report

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