Murder conviction overturned due to use of racist stereotypes

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TACOMA, Wash. (AP) – A man accused of shooting an ex-girlfriend in 2017 in his Milton apartment won his appeal after successfully arguing that the prosecutor’s misconduct deprived him of a fair trial .

The News Tribune reported on Monday that a panel of three judges from Division II of the Washington State Court of Appeals overturned his convictions on August 31, saying prosecutors erred in suggesting to the jury racist stereotypes.

A spokesperson for the Pierce County District Attorney’s Office said the office is deciding whether to ask the state Supreme Court to review the decision.

Jurors found Joshua Kioni Ellis guilty of second degree murder for the death of 25-year-old Wendi Traynor, and Ellis was sentenced to more than 23 years in prison.

Prosecutors told jurors Ellis shot Traynor about a month after she left their Kentucky home and returned to Washington. His family recovered his body about a week after the shooting.

Ellis argued at trial that he killed Traynor in self-defense while she was picking up a gun.

On appeal, Ellis argued that Assistant District Attorney John Neeb’s reference to The People v. OJ Simpson and an exercise in implicit bias were inappropriate in the jury selection.

“Ellis maintains that the prosecutor erred on the voir dire because he invoked racial stereotypes and appealed to the prejudice of the jury,” Judge Bernard Veljacic wrote for the panel. “Because the prosecutor committed a fault that deprived Ellis of a fair trial, we are overturning his convictions. “


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