But court applies new rule to juror challenges
SEATTLE – The Washington Supreme Court said Thursday that a prosecutor must give a nondiscriminatory reason when striking the only member of a defendant’s minority from a jury pool.
But the decision isn’t going to help Theodore Rhone, 48.
Rhone, who is black, challenged his robbery, drug, gun and bail-jumping convictions, saying it was by definition discriminatory for the Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office to use a peremptory challenge to remove the only black person from his jury pool without explanation.
Four Supreme Court justices, led by Justice Charles Johnson, held that the prosecutor’s actions were not on their face discriminatory.
Four other justices, led by Justice Gerry Alexander, said they would give Rhone a new trial and that they would put in place a rule that whenever prosecutors strike the only member of a defendant’s minority from the jury pool, they must give a race-neutral explanation for doing so.
Chief Justice Barbara Madsen broke the tie in a two-sentence opinion. She said that going forward, prosecutors must give such explanations. But for reasons she did not explain, she refused to apply that rule in Rhone’s case, so his conviction stands.