On February 2, 2023, a Polk County jury found defendant Raymond L. Hilliard guilty of one count of driving while intoxicated (DWI). Evidence was accepted by the Court to prove that Mr. Hilliard was a persistent DWI offender due to having two prior DWI convictions, from years 2000 and 2018. Due to the persistent offender status, this charge is a class E felony, and carries a range of up to four years in prison. Sentencing is set for April 3, 2023 at 8:30 a.m.
The crime in question occurred on April 9, 2022, wherein Raymond Hilliard of Humansville was operating a motorcycle on 315th Road near 55th Road in Polk County. Mr. Hilliard crashed the motorcycle, resulting in severe injuries to both himself and his passenger.
MSgt. Sean Long, a trooper with the Missouri State Highway Patrol, responded to the scene and found both parties injured and being treated by emergency personnel. Trooper Long conducted an investigation of the crash scene which indicated the motorcycle exited the roadway on the left side before becoming airborne and flipping and landing more than 150 feet from the initial tire skid marks. Both defendant and his passenger were subsequently airlifted to hospitals in Springfield.
To follow up his investigation, Trooper Long requested a subpoena for Mr. Hilliard’s hospital records following the crash, and these records showed that the Defendant had a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.13% in the hours after the crash. For reference, the “legal limit” in Missouri is a BAC of 0.08%. Trooper Long also interviewed both Mr. Hilliard and his passenger a few days after the crash, and both individuals indicated that they had memory loss regarding the crash itself , but that the motorcycle was Mr. Hilliard’s and that he would have been the one operating it. However, approximately two weeks after the hospital interviews, the passenger had called Trooper Long and indicated that she now remembered that she had been the one driving.
Leading up to the trial, the passenger involved in this case was unable to be served with subpoena by the Prosecutor’s Office and was unavailable at trial. Some of the passenger’s statements were brought in through Trooper Long, the State’s sole witness at trial. The defense called no witnesses and submitted no evidence, but argued that there was reasonable doubt as to whether the defendant was actually the one driving given the passenger’s conflicting statements, and argued that the physical evidence at the crash site did not clearly show who was driving. The State argued to the jury that the statements both individuals made in the days following the crash were more reliable than the phone call from the passenger, and that the evidence from the crash site helped prove that the defendant was driving, and that he had done so erratically and under the influence of alcohol.
The jury deliberated for approximately an hour, requesting to see the state’s submitted evidence to aid them in their decision. Circuit Judge Michael O. Hendrickson accepted the guilty verdict, setting the case for a hearing on April 3, 2023, for a hearing regarding a possible motion for new trial (a standard practice) or, barring such a motion, for sentencing. A sentencing assessment report will be completed by Missouri Probation and Parole in the mean-time, which will aid the judge in determining a proper sentence.
This case was the first criminal jury trial for Polk County Assistant Prosecutor Lisha Seery, who presented the opening statement and examined the State’s witness. Elected Prosecutor Keaton Ashlock selected the jury in voir dire, and made the closing argument. The Prosecutor’s Office thanks the many members of our community that fulfilled their civic duty in jury selection and furthermore thanks those that were selected to serve on the jury itself to hear the case. It is an essential part of our judicial system.