Northwest News

Six cases of ‘prosecutorial misconduct’

Since 2013, the Washington State Court of Appeals and the state Supreme Court have ordered new trials for defendants in six cases where Pierce County deputy prosecutors were found to have committed reversible error — called “prosecutorial misconduct.”

Here are snapshots of each of those cases:

Defendant: Larry Tarrer

Charges: Tarrer was convicted by jury in 2010 of first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in a 1991 shooting that killed Lavern Simpkins and the unborn baby of Claudia McCorvey, who was wounded. Tarrer was sentenced to nearly 75 years in prison.

Deputy prosecutor: John Neeb

Opinion: The Court of Appeals for Division II ruled in 2013 that Neeb, during closing argument, improperly asked the jury to “declare the truth” with its verdict, used a fill-in-the-blank argument when explaining the concept of reasonable doubt, compared the reasonable doubt standard to everyday decision-making and invoked the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to appeal to the jury’s patriotism.

Outcome: Tarrer was retried in 2014, convicted of the original charges and sentenced to nearly 75 years in prison.

Defendants: JoJo Hamilton Evans and Jarrett Lynn Reedy

Charges: Evans was convicted by jury in 2009 of first-degree robbery, second-degree assault, unlawful possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm. Reedy was convicted of first-degree robbery, unlawful possession of a controlled substance and unlawful possession of a firearm.

Prosecutors said they committed a drug robbery. Evans originally was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison, Reedy to nearly nine years.

Deputy prosecutor: Thomas Howe, who now works with the state Attorney General’s Office.

Opinion: The Court of Appeals for Division II ruled in 2013 that Howe, during closing argument, misstated the defendant’s presumption of innocence, told jurors their job was to “declare the truth” with their verdict and used a fill-in-the-blank argument in arguing reasonable doubt.

Outcome: In 2013, Evans pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery and unlawful possession of a firearm and was sentenced to six years, five months in prison. Reedy pleaded guilty to the same charges and got four years, six months.

Defendants: James Leroy Lindsay and Jennifer Holmes

Charges: A jury in 2009 convicted Lindsay and Holmes each of first-degree burglary, first-degree robbery, second-degree assault and theft of a firearm. Lindsay was convicted of second-degree kidnapping and Holmes of unlawful imprisonment.

Prosecutors alleged the two attacked and robbed Holmes’ ex-boyfriend. Lindsay was sentenced to eight years, six months in prison and Holmes to seven years, five months.

Deputy prosecutor: John Sheeran

Opinion: The state Supreme Court ruled that Sheeran bickered with defense attorney Barbara Corey in front of the jury, and, during closing argument, misstated the burden of proof, expressed his personal belief as to one defendant’s veracity, whispered to the jury and denigrated defense counsel.

Outcome: Lindsay pleaded guilty in 2014 to third-degree assault, attempted residential burglary, second-degree theft and unlawful imprisonment and was sentenced to a year in prison. Holmes pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and attempted residential burglary and got 18 months.

Defendant: Tyrone Manson St. Ours

Charge: A jury in 2013 convicted St. Ours of unlawfully possessing heroin after he allegedly was caught carrying a backpack with the drug inside it.

Deputy prosecutor: Jennifer Hernandez

Opinion: In February, the state Court of Appeals for Division II ruled that Hernandez argued facts not in evidence during her closing argument.

Outcome: The case is pending.

Defendant: Odies Walker

Charges: A jury in 2011 convicted Walker of aggravated first-degree murder, first-degree assault, first-degree robbery, solicitation and conspiracy for allegedly masterminding the murder and robbery of armored-car guard Kurt Husted at the Lakewood Walmart in 2009.

Deputy prosecutor: Dawn Farina and Jerry Costello, who is now a Superior Court judge

Opinion: The state Supreme Court ruled in January that Farina repeatedly expressed her personal opinion of Walker’s guilt and eroded his right to a fair trial by using inflammatory and sometimes racially charged captions one some slides in her PowerPoint presentation during closing argument.

Outcome: The case has been scheduled for retrial in Superior Court in October.

Defendant: Dorcus Allen

Charges: A jury in 2011 convicted Allen of four counts of aggravated first-degree murder in the 2009 shooting deaths of four Lakewood police officers. Prosecutors allege Allen served as killer Maurice Clemmons’ getaway driver.

Deputy prosecutors: Steven Penner and Phil Sorensen, who is now a Superior Court judge

Opinion: The state Supreme Court in January ruled that Penner repeatedly misstated the law during closing argument, lessening the state’s burden of proof.

Outcome: Allen is scheduled for retrial in Superior Court in May.

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