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January 23, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Supreme Court rejects petition from death-row inmate

The Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington’s Supreme Court has rejected a petition for release from death-row inmate Jonathan Lee Gentry, sentenced for the murder of a 12-year-old girl in 1988.

Gentry was condemned in 1991 for bludgeoning of Cassie Holden in Bremerton. The girl was visiting her mother from Pocatello, Idaho.

Gentry, who is black, argued that his trial was tainted by inappropriate, racial comments from the prosecutor and a witness. He sought to apply a decision the court made in an unrelated King County case in 2011 that was highly critical of race-based prosecutorial misconduct.

In that case, the court, in an 8-1 ruling, found that James Konat, a former King County deputy prosecutor, engaged in “prosecutorial misconduct” in questioning witnesses during the trial of Kevin L. Monday Jr., who was convicted in 2007 of first-degree murder and first-degree assault, and sentenced to 64 years in prison. The justices found Konat used  ”racist arguments” to attack defense witnesses and threw out Monday’s murder conviction.

In State v. Monday, the court determined that when a prosecutor commits such misconduct, it’s the burden of the state to prove it didn’t affect the trial.
Justice Debra Stephens wrote for the court Thursday that the possibility of such bias is “of extremely grave concern affecting the legitimacy of the jury’s verdict,” but the decision in Monday does not apply to earlier cases, including Gentry’s.
Nevertheless, because Gentry is facing execution, they took another look at his claims of bias, even though the court had rejected them on his earlier appeal.
Once again, they concluded that Gentry had shown no evidence of racial bias at his trial.
Justice Charles Wiggins dissented on another point. He said the case should have been sent back to Superior Court for a statistical review of whether Washington’s death penalty is imposed in a racially discriminatory manner.

0 Comments | More in The Blotter | Topics: death row, Jonathan Lee Gentry, Washington State Supreme Court

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