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Pierce County judge’s error means new trial for man accused of shooting trooper

Post by Adam Lynn / The News Tribune on June 4, 2013 at 11:29 am |
June 4, 2013 11:29 am

A man convicted of attempting to kill a Washington state trooper deserves a new trial because a Pierce County judge violated his rights by holding a routine proceeding outside the public’s view, an appeals court has ruled.

Superior Court Judge Vicki Hogan erred when she allowed the drawing of alternate jurors in the trial of Martin A. Jones to be done during a recess in the official proceedings.

That violated Jones’ right to a public trial, the three-judge panel of Division II unanimously ruled in a decision released Tuesday.

Judges often empanel more than 12 jurors to hear a case to ensure there is a sufficient number of jurors to render a verdict should one of them be unable to deliberate once a trial is finished.

The method for selecting which jurors serve as alternates varies widely among judges, but the appeals panel ruled that process must be done in open court.

“… alternate juror selection, under our experience, has been and continues to be publicly open,” the panel wrote in its opinion.

During Jones’ trial, Hogan had her judicial assistant draw the names of four alternates during a recess in closing arguments, records show. She later announced the names of the alternates and excused them following closing arguments, presumably when court was in session.

The appellate justices equated the recess to a closure of the court and said Hogan should have held a hearing before doing so.

“If the trial court failed to do so, then a ‘per se prejudicial’ public trial violation has occurred …,” the panel wrote.

You can read the entire opinion here. 

Jones, a 49-year-old resident of Pacific County, was convicted in 2011 of shooting trooper Scott Johnson near Long Beach the year before. Prosecutors said he shot Johnson as the trooper impounded the car of Jones’ wife following a DUI stop.

Hogan sentenced Jones to 50 years in prison.

The case was transferred to Pierce County at the request of Jones’ defense attorneys, who argued their client could not get a fair trial in Pacific County because of publicity surrounding the case.

Johnson recovered and was elected sheriff of Pacific County.

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