Jury acquits man of negligent homicide in fatal crash

Jurors decided that Joseph Gross didn't commit a crime when he drove his car through a stop sign.

A Dane County jury deliberated for almost six hours Thursday night before acquitting a Daleyville man of negligent homicide for a fatal crash last year in the town of Primrose.

The driver had faced up to five years in prison for his involvement in the Feb. 21 crash that killed a New Glarus man.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Humphrey and the Daleyville man's lawyer, Stephen Eisenberg, agreed that the man drove his car through a stop sign on Highway A at Highway 92 and hit the victim's pickup truck, but disagreed on whether it was an accident or a crime.

In proving criminal negligence, the state had to show that the driver of the vehicle that ran the stop sign should have realized his conduct would create a risk of death or great bodily harm.

It was a difficult decision for the jurors, but they weighed all the evidence, the jury's forewoman said after Circuit Judge Angela Bartell announced the verdict.

"I think the law is very difficult," said Morna Faoy, "and we have a system that's very tough."

The verdict was greeted by driver's large family with handshakes and hugs. Eisenberg, tears glistening, led the man from the courtroom to talk privately.

On Thursday, both sides presented experts to bolster their views on whether the driver of the car that ran the stop sign suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning at the time of the crash.

The driver said Wednesday that he had worked on a car inside a closed garage for about 15 minutes before leaving for work that morning. Dr. Jeffrey Niezgoda testified that carbon monoxide the driver breathed during the work likely contributed to the crash.

But Laura Liddicoat, a state Hygiene Laboratory chemist testifying for the prosecution, said it was impossible for a debilitating level of carbon monoxide to be in the man's body, given his brief exposure.

Eisenberg in his closing argument, said that Liddicoat, with no hands-on experience in carbon monoxide treatment, was unqualified to offer an opinion on the topic, compared to Niezgoda, a specialist in oxygen therapy used to treat carbon monoxide poisoning.

"She gave you baloney, but we gave you steak," Eisenberg told the jury.

Eisenberg also said the crash was purely an accident because of poor visibility at the intersection, which lacks rumble strips or flashing lights.